Having failed to fill depleting coffers by increasing fuel prices ahead of upcoming elections, the government is now asking the common man to reduce consumption of transport fuel through good driving habits, car-pooling and thereby saving on cost.
Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister M Veerappa Moily’s proposal to effect massive fuel conservation, intended to cut fuel demand by 3 per cent and save around $2.5 billion in foreign exchange, also includes staggered office timings for government officials to help de-congest roads during peak hours.
Moily has suggested observing one day a week as “bus day” for public servants and ministerial staff, when they are encouraged to utilise only public transport to commute.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had asked Moily to prepare a plan to cut oil import bill by at least $25 billion.
Simpler steps like good driving habits, better maintenance of vehicles, car-pooling to commute to office and school have been preferred in the fuel conservation drive rather than going in for tougher choices like a steep hike in oil prices as the government appears to be wary of the political impact it will have ahead of assembly elections in four crucial states, including Delhi, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.
Asked if a one-time price increase of diesel, the losses on which has gone beyond Rs 10 a litre, was off the table, Moily said: "If you ask me today, there is no proposal. We need to do more to conserve fuel or face tougher choices such as steep price increase or even quantitative easing.”
The oil ministry will spend Rs 50 crore on fuel conservation awareness campaign to be launched on October 1 and will rope in youth icons like cricketer Virat Kohli and badminton player Saina Nehwal to send across the message among India’s young population which is also the largest user of private transport. Direct interaction with consumers will be used to encourage them to adopt conservation measures.
Smart phones and new media tools will also be commissioned to make people aware of the need to reduce consumption of transport fuel and save scarce dollars as India imports close to 80 per cent of its fuel requirement, the single biggest item in its import basket.
“We will also be conducting LPG clinics, Kisan melas, driver training programmes, street plays, marathons, checking of vehicles to drive home the message of fuel conservation,” Moily said.