Centre on Monday, gave Maharashtra government sweeping powers, including seizure of fuel retail pumps for maintaining petrol and diesel supplies, even as Oil Minister Murli Deora appealed to petrol pump dealers in the state to withdraw their indefinite strike.
Powers under Petroleum Product (Maintenance, Production, Storage and Supply) Order 1999 and the Motor Spirit and High Speed Diesel (Regulation of Supply, Distribution and Prevention of Malpractices) Order 2005 were delegated to Maharashtra, which saw some 2,200 petrol pump dealers go on indefinite strike from Monday, demanding lowering of state sales tax.
"I am not for taking punitive action against dealers... Some of their demands are genuine and I myself will take them to the state Chief Minister for resolving the issues amicably," Deora told reporters, but refused to say if the Centre had given the state government sweeping powers.
However, a Maharashtra government official said the state government had written to the Centre demanding sweeping powers to take all necessary steps to ensure uninterrupted supplies during the strike. "The orders were issued today."
Deora said the sales tax rates in Maharashtra are the highest in the country, which put the petrol pump dealers at a disadvantage. "Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh had promised to reduce them but so far the promise has not been fulfilled."
Sales tax in Maharashtra is higher than neighboring states, leading to loss of business for fuel retailers. Maharashtra imposes 33 per cent sales tax on diesel and 28 per cent on petrol while neighbouring states such as Gujarat levies 23.5 per cent on diesel and 26 per cent on petrol and Goa levies 21 per cent on diesel and 22 per cent on petrol.