Rejecting the Opposition demand, the government today ruled out rolling back the hike in fuel prices, saying the fiscal situation did not permit it.
"Sorry. It is not possible as the situation is very difficult, please bear with me and let us wait for better days," Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said on the demand for withdrawal of duty hikes in petrol and diesel.
He was responding to the debate on Finance Bill in Rajya Sabha after which it was returned to the Lok Sabha. With this, the nine-week budget exercise was completed.
Mukherjee had in the Budget for 2010-11 raised excise and customs duty on auto fuels to garner Rs 26,000 crore. The hike in duties had resulted in petrol price being increased by Rs 2.71 a litre and diesel by Rs 2.55 per litre.
The Opposition has been demanding roll-back of the duties saying the fuel price hike hurt the common man and added to inflationary pressures on food items.
On rising inflation, which is near 17 per cent, the Minister admitted that food prices are high and hurting the common man but asserted that the Public Distribution System (PDS) needs to be revamped and made effective to blunt the impact.
"PDS must be in place. It must be functional. Sitting at the Centre, it is not possible to run PDS. Primarily, it is the responsibility of the states," Mukherjee said.
Asserting that there was adequate foodgrains' stock available, he said the government has decided to offload the stocks to the states at prices at which the Centre has procured.
It is not possible to provide subsidy across the board as the Centre has been providing subsidised foodgrains to different vulnerable sections of the society.
Under Antayodya Scheme, the government is providing rice at Rs two a kg, for BPL it is available for Rs 12 per kg and for certain sections of APL, rice is being sold at Rs 6.80 a kg.