The meeting of the Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM) on fuel price hike headed by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee on Monday remained “inconclusive.'' It decided to hold wider consultations including at the political level, to arrive at a consensus on the quantum of hike in petroleum products.
The EGoM meeting was hit by lack of quorum as a number of Ministers failed to turn up, despite a fortnight's notice. Although there was no official word on the date of the next meeting, it is learnt that the group could meet as soon as next week.
“We had a very good meeting but because of Ministers not being present, no decision was taken. We will meet again soon,'' Petroleum Secretary S. Sundareshan said.
Besides Mr. Mukherjee, the meeting was attended by Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Chemicals and Fertilizer Minister M.K. Alagiri, Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Murli Deora and Cabinet Secretary K.M. Chandrasekhar.
Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee, Agriculture and Food Distribution Minister Sharad Pawar, Surface Road Transport Minister Kamal Nath and Power Minister Sushilkumar Shinde did not turn up.
“Various aspects of price increase and its impact were discussed at the meeting. It was decided to hold wider consultations on the issue before arriving at a decision. I would like to assure you that whatever be the outcome of the EGoM on price hike, the interests of the common man will be protected at any cost. We have to protect the oil marketing companies (OMCs) also in the larger interest of the nation. They should not suffer losses which could impact their future development and expansion plans,'' Mr. Deora told The Hindu after the meeting.
To apprise Manmohan
It is learnt that Mr. Deora will now apprise Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi of the deliberations of the EGoM in order to reach an understanding within the government and the party.
Freeing petrol and diesel prices would have meant a hike of up to Rs. 3.50 a litre.
The Petroleum Ministry team, headed by Petroleum Secretary S. Sundareshan also made an elaborate presentation to the EGoM on the recommendations of the Kirit Parikh Committee that suggested freeing fuel prices. OMCs have been selling fuel at less than the imported price and as a result suffer huge losses.