New Delhi: External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee will head a new Group of Ministers constituted to look into the pricing of petroleum products.
The GoM also includes Defence Minister A K Antony, Finance Minister P Chidambaram, Railway Minister Lalu Prasad, Road Transport, Highways and Shipping Minister T R Baalu, Consumer Affairs Minister Sharad Pawar and Petroleum Minister Murli Deora, official sources said.
The constitution of the GoM was announced by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh last week. “I have appointed a GoM to report back to the Cabinet within one month,” he had said on way to Singapore to attend the ASEAN Summit.
Government is trying to evolve a political consensus on the sensitive issue of raising domestic fuel prices at a time when international crude oil prices are hovering around $100 a barrel. India imports nearly three-fourth of its crude oil requirement.
Public sector oil firms Indian Oil, Bharat Petroleum and Hindustan Petroleum are together losing over Rs250 crore per day on sale of petrol, diesel, domestic cooking gas LPG and kerosene as they have not been allowed to raise retail prices despite rise in international prices.
A GoM may have become necessary as there was no unanimity on raising fuel prices and Finance Ministry was opposing Oil Ministry’s proposal to cut excise duty on petrol and diesel to ease the burden of oil firms.
Petrol attracts an excise duty of six per cent plus Rs13 a litre while diesel is charged 6% plus Rs3.25 per litre excise duty. Petroleum Ministry wanted excise duty to the lowered by Rs1-2 a litre.