Meeting of EGoM on fuel price hike deferred by few hours

Meeting of EGoM on fuel price hike deferred by few hours

New Delhi: The much anticipated meeting of a high-power panel of ministers on raising fuel prices has been put-off by a few hours to study more options.

The Empowered Group of Ministers headed by finance minister Pranab Mukherjee was scheduled to meet at 1300 hours Friday, but was put off to later in the day.

This followed an hour-long meeting Mukherjee had with oil minister S Jaipal Reddy at noon where various scenarios were discussed.

“The meeting of the EGoM has been postponed to 1900 hours," Reddy told reporters after meeting Mukherjee. “We are working on more options (on fuel price hike and duty rejig as an answer to spiralling crude oil prices). A decision will be announced after the meeting."

He, however, refused to divulge details of his discussions with Mukherjee and the options before the government.

“I will not indulge in speculation," he said.

The brief postponement may also have been to take on board the opinion of the ruling Congress party’s highest decision making body, the Congress Working Committee (CWC), which is meeting later Friday.

Raising diesel, domestic LPG and possibly kerosene rates is a politically sensitive decision and the government wants to take all sections on board before taking a decision.

Reddy said the brief postponement is also because a revision in prices, if done, would be effected from midnight tonight.

Any price increase is announced closer to this deadline to avoid hoarding by petrol pump owners, who have in the past shown a tendency to put up ‘no-stock´ signs so as to earn quick money by selling fuel they bought at the old price, after the new rates have come into effect.

Earlier in the day, Reddy had stated that his ministry had not made any specific proposal on the quantum of increase or the duty cut desired.

He said only a detailed analysis of the scenario developing from a spike in rates of international crude oil, on which India depends on to meet more than three quarters of its energy needs, has been submitted to the EGoM.

“My ministry has given no proposal (on fuel price hike or duty reduction) to the EGoM," Reddy had told PTI here. “We have offered an analysis and the same will be discussed at the EGoM meeting."

“Nothing (on quantum of hike in diesel, domestic LPG or kerosene price as well as reduction in customs and excise duties) has been circulated. Any speculations (on these) is unfounded,“ Reddy added.

Besides Reddy, the EGoM headed by finance minister Pranab Mukherjee includes agriculture minister Sharad Pawar, power minister Sushilkumar Shinde, road transport minister C P Joshi, chemical and fertiliser minister M K Alagiri and Planning Commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia.

Pawar and Alagiri are unlikely to attend the EGoM meeting as they are not in town.

State-owned oil firms are together projected to lose a whopping 1,66,712 crore in revenues this fiscal on selling diesel, domestic LPG and kerosene at government-controlled rates, which are way below the market price. The EGoM will deliberate on measures including an increase in the retail price, duty reduction and government subsidy, to tackle this loss.

Oil firms currently lose 15.44 per litre on diesel, 27.47 per litre on kerosene and 381.14 on the sale of every 14.2-kg domestic LPG cylinder.