Diesel, LPG prices unlikely to be hiked

A top oil ministry official said it will be "suicidal" to even think of raising prices of diesel, LPG or kerosene just before Parliament is to meet or even during the one-month long session. The winter session of Parliament begins on Tuesday.

The Ministry, which had given oil firms a tacit approval for the November 4 hike in petrol price by Rs 1.80 per litre, was taken by surprise by the criticism revision in price of a commodity that was decontrolled or freed from government control generated.

It was even more astonished when the November 16 reduction in petrol price by Rs 2.22 a litre in line with falling global oil rates, was not praised but criticised as a decision taken for political considerations.

"Both decisions were dictated by economic considerations - the hike because of fall in rupee and reduction because of dip in international oil prices," the official said but agreed that the political backlash could have been avoided if the oil companies had waited for few more days before raising rates.

Oil companies pressed for a hike as they were losing Rs 1.52 a litre on petrol (excluding local sales tax) because of weakening rupee. But had they shown little more patience, the loss would have been more than neutralised by the Rs 1.85 per litre gain they made because of fall in global oil rates in next 10 days.

"The oil companies passed on to consumers whatever gain they made," the official said.

The price hike had been criticised by both Opposition and parties within the ruling UPA coalition and has made the ministry more circumspect on revision in rates for subsidised products.

"No meeting of the Empowered Group of Ministers (which takes a call on pricing of diesel, domestic LPG and kerosene) has been scheduled for now," the official said. State-owned Indian Oil Corp (IOC), Bharat Petroleum and Hindustan Petroleum are losing Rs 11.44 per litre on diesel, Rs 26.94 a litre on kerosene and Rs 260.50 per 14.2-kg LPG cylinder.

Without a price revision, the three firms are projected to lose Rs 130,000 crore in revenues on the three products in the full fiscal year, the official said adding oil PSUs were borrowing heavily to meet the shortfall in revenue.

"Borrowing have reached an unprecedented level of Rs 131,177 crore necessitated by the need of working capital for payment of imported crude," he added.

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