N ew Delhi: The Indian government has ruled out any immediate rollback of a petrol price hike that has sparked widespread public protests and anger among its coalition allies.
Oil Minister Jaipal Reddy promised a review of prices “within days, not weeks” but stressed that oil refiners had little choice but to raise the cost of petrol, faced with a plunging rupee and steep global crude prices.
Indiaimports around 80 per cent of its oil needs and state-run refiners announced Wednesday a sharp 11.5% increase in petrol prices, citing escalating revenue losses.
While acknowledging public anxiety over the hike, Reddy argued that the government “cannot run the country on popular sentiments.”
”Somewhere we need to have a balance,” he told reporters inNew Delhi.
Two partners in the Congress Party-led coalition government have urged a rollback of the price increase, while the main opposition BJP party has called a nationwide strike on May 31.
The country’s largest refiner, Indian Oil Corp., defended the price rise on Thursday, and said it could only consider a reduction if international crude prices came down.
The government deregulated petrol prices in 2010 in a reform aimed at reducing the massive subsidies it pays to state-run fuel refiners to keep prices down.
However, it retained complete control over the heavily subsidised cost of diesel, cooking gas and kerosene, which are used byIndia’s poor.
“The logic in favor of increasing the prices of diesel, liquid petroleum gases and kerosene is unassailable, but politics and logic don’t go together,” Reddy said.