Diesel now costs more than petrol in Delhi

by Ajit Dalvi 24 Jun 2020

The unthinkable has happened. The price of diesel, once touted as the ‘common man’s fuel’, has raced ahead of petrol. As of today – June 24, 6am – diesel costs Rs 79.88 a litre as compared to Rs 79.76 for a litre of petrol – a difference of 12 paise.

Minuscule as the difference may be, it marks for the first time that diesel price has outpaced petrol. This even as the prices of diesel and petrol continued rising for the 18th day in a row.  The price increases mark 20-month highs for both fuels. With today’s hike, prices of these two fossil fuels have cumulatively risen by Rs 8.83 (petrol) and Rs 10.59 (diesel) per litre in the past 18 days.

In comparison, in Mumbai, India’s financial capital, as of today diesel costs Rs 78.22 a litre versus Rs 86.54 for petrol. In Chennai, the cost of a diesel litre is Rs 77.17 while a petrol litre costs Rs 83.04. And in the city of joy – Kolkata – diesel is priced at Rs 75.06 a litre and Rs 81.45 for petrol.

FUEL PRICES AS OF JUNE 24 (per litre)
Delhi: Rs 79.88
Mumbai: Rs 78.22
Chennai: Rs 77.17
Kolkata: Rs 75.06

Delhi: Rs 79.76
Mumbai: Rs 86.54
Chennai: Rs 83.04
Kolkata: Rs 81.45

Excise duty on fuels hits Indian motorists' wallets hard
It may be recollected that on May 6, the government had sharply increased excise duty on the fuels – Rs 10 per litre on petrol and Rs 13 per litre on diesel – aimed at generating an estimated Rs 1.6 lakh crore of additional revenue.

A week ago, as of June 16, the excise duty component on petrol in Delhi (priced at Rs 76.73 then) was Rs 32.98 a litre, which accounts for 43 percent of the price of a litre of the fuel. Diesel (priced at Rs 75.19 on June 16) includes excise duty of 42.33 percent at Rs 31.83 per litre. For the detailed price build-up refer the tables below. The split for the very latest petrol and diesel price build-up is not available in the public domain yet.  

Now, on June 24, with the substantial change in fuel prices, excise would also have gone up.

Historically, motorists in India have not benefitted from low global crude oil rates. Last month, crude oil had dropped to a record low of $20 per barrel but a commensurate benefit did not accrue to them.

India, which is the world's third-largest oil consumer, imports about 84 percent of its fossil fuel needs. Industry estimates have it that if crude prices rise by $1 per barrel, the country’s net import bill will increase by Rs 3,029 crore and vice versa. Further, if the exchange rate rises by a rupee to a dollar, the net import bill will increase by Rs 2,473 crore. This not only means a huge bonanza in terms of savings for Indian oil marketing companies but also potentially lower automotive fuel prices for motorists, as it would translate to much lower petrol/diesel bills.

However, if past trends are any indicator, then it will be safe to assume that all the benefits of lower crude are unlikely to get passed on to the end consumer. The Central and State governments have in the past raised the duties and taxes in order to shore up additional revenue collection. 

The ongoing price hike in petrol and diesel prices comes at a time when the automobile industry and motorists can least afford it, and it just adds to the cocktail of bad news like the COVID-19 pandemic, a prolonged economic slowdown that threatens to continue, the automobile industry gingerly returning to production, and consumers preferring to delay purchase.