Moving one step forward in introducing a “free fuel pricing regime'' and raising of fuel prices, Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Murli Deora on Saturday met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and discussed fuel price hike as well as decontrol of petroleum products.
The meeting comes 48 hours before the Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM), headed by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, is scheduled to meet on Monday.
“We will protect the interests of the consumers and the common man. We will ensure that the ‘aam aadmi' is protected and the government will keep a watch on the working of the private as well as public sector undertaking companies in case of decontrol. We will ensure that they will get the right fuel at the right time and at right price,'' Mr. Deora told The Hindu after meeting the Prime Minister.
The Minister generally spends his weekends in Mumbai, but decided to stay back to hold discussions with the Prime Minister, senior officials and political heads. He is scheduled to meet the Mr. Mukherjee on Sunday.
Mr. Mukherjee is away in Busan for the G-20 ministers meeting and will be back here on Sunday morning.
At his half-an-hour meeting with the Prime Minister, Mr. Deora is understood to have discussed the decontrol of diesel and petrol as envisaged in the Kirit Parikh panel report.
Bleeding of OMCs
It is learnt that the Prime Minister expressed concern over the “bleeding” of the oil marketing companies (OMCs) and the losses incurred by them.
The rising oil import bill and the issue of increasing the reach of LPG connections in order to reduce the consumption of highly subsidised kerosene also came up for discussion.
The Finance Minister and his officials have asked the Petroleum Ministry to take a call on decontrol of petrol and diesel in order to reduce the increasing subsidy bill.
Faced with a whopping loss of nearly Rs. 20,000 crore by the OMCs – the Indian Oil Corporation, the Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited and the Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited – in the first quarter of the current fiscal, the government has made up its mind to decontrol petrol and diesel.
However, it is yet to take a call on increasing the prices of the LPG cylinder and the subsidised kerosene that hardly reaches the targeted group and often finds its way into the black market.
The EGoM is scheduled to meet on June 7 to consider the Parikh panel report. The fall in global oil prices has made the task of the government easier. International crude oil prices have been hovering around $70-72 a barrel.
Besides Mr. Mukherjee, the EGoM includes Mr. Deora, Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, Chemicals and Fertilizer Minister M.K. Alagiri, Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee, Surface Road Transport Minister Kamal Nath and Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia.
According to its terms of reference, the EGoM is to consider a pricing policy for petrol and diesel, including decontrol.
Mr. Deora said the EGoM also had to decide on ways to bridge the deficit between the imported rate and retail price of LPG and kerosene.