Petrol, diesel levies hiked to get funds without touching individual taxes: Sitharaman

Unless we give substantial incentive for renewable energy, particularly when it comes to the question of mobility…emissions from vehicles that use fossil fuel is main reason for suspended particles in air…So we wanted to make sure that if we have made a good commitment for improving air quality conditions we have to support electric vehicles

Written by July 5, 2019 20:05

New Delhi: Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday dismissed suggestions that levies on petrol and diesel will fuel inflation, saying it was aimed at meeting public funding needs without hurting individual taxpayers and was also a step to move away from fossil fuels to electric vehicles.

Addressing a press conference here after presenting the union budget 2019-20, she said the government’s record in the past five years on controlling inflation has been exemplary and inflation has been at the lowest.

Answering a query, Sitharaman also said she had junked the colonial era tradition of carrying a leather briefcase while going to present budget.

She introduced the budget bahi khata (a traditional ledger in red cloth folder).

“I thought it is high time India moved out of British hangover. It is good for us to do something of our own. It is easy for me to carry also to do something on our own. And well, easier for me to carry also,” she said.

Sitharaman, who was defence minister in the previous NDA government, said the higher allocation had been made for defence as also the northeast.

Answering a query on government imposing cess and levies on petrol and diesel, she said there is always a demand for mobilising funds.

“The global situation being what it is and India’s public funding requirement being what it is, there is always this demand that fund has to be mobilised without hurting individual taxpayers much more. Let us be clear petrol, diesel are not in GST. We wanted to be sure that we do not expand on personal income tax so much,” she said.

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Sitharaman said public transport was being promoted as also the option of bio-fuel. “This kind of fuel we wanted to be addressed,” she said.

Asked about the government giving incentives on the purchase of electric vehicles and imposing taxes on petroleum products, she said the environment commitment requires gradually moving away from fossil fuels to renewable energy.

“Unless we give substantial incentive for renewable energy, particularly when it comes to the question of mobility…emissions from vehicles that use fossil fuel is main reason for suspended particles in air…So we wanted to make sure that if we have made a good commitment for improving air quality conditions we have to support electric vehicles,” she said.

Sitharaman, who is the first woman full-time Finance Minister. said Indians were also making electric vehicles.

“Unless we encourage them in a significant way, the move to electric vehicles is not going to happen,” she said.

The minister said it was a sunrise sector with potential of employment generation and will entail investments in solar and other batteries. “There is a lot of scope for India,” she said.

Sitharaman said the government was incentivising buying electric vehicles as also investment in batteries.

In reply to another question about tax on one crore cash withdrawal from an account, she justified it saying “what is the need to withdraw Rs one crore from one account a year in cash”.

“I do not comprehend this. You may transfer money through electronic transfers and there is no TDS. We are not against transactions, we are against cash,” she said.

Asked about the budget speech not mentioning defence outlay, she said not mentioning did not mean she had not increased it.

Referring to defence pension, she said it was Rs 1,06,775 crore in revised estimates of 2018-19 and had been increased to 1,12, 080 crore.

She said capital outlay on defence services was Rs 93,982 crore in the revised estimates but has been hiked to Rs 1,03,394 crores.

She said “defence services on revenue” was Rs 1,88,118 crores in the revised estimates and now was Rs 2,01.902 crore.

On the MoD (Civil), she said it had seen Rs 3,000 crore reduction as some money had already been given.

“Under every head, there is a substantial hike. It helps to have a defence minister as finance minister,” she said.

She said the allocation for northeast had also gone up from Rs 0.47 lakh crore in budget estimates of 2018-19 to Rs 0.59 crore.

Sitharaman said the union budget aims at creating a new India by setting a vision and laying a plan to achieve it, has reasonable fiscal targets and comprehensively tackles areas that have posed challenges in the past.

She said it emphasises on the overall development of the economy and looks at ways in which ease of living can be improved in rural and urban areas. (ANI)