Govt will shield poor from effects of gas price hike: oil minister

The NDA government is yet to firm up plans for implementing the proposed hike in the price of domestically produced natural gas and formulate ways of reducing the burden of higher gas prices on the consumer, especially the poor.

While the price hike is sure to come, the government is worried that its pro-reforms stance will be interpreted as anti-poor if the gas price hike is passed on to consumers.

Minister of state (independent charge) for petroleum and natural gas Dharmendra Pradhan on Tuesday said the government was seized of the matter and that a decision on revising natural gas price would be taken at an appropriate time.

The minister said the government would ensure that a balance between the need for reforms and the interest of the poor is maintained.

"We are examining all aspects of the issue. We are deeply into it. A right decision will be taken at the right time," he said.

The power ministry, meanwhile, is evaluating the cost implications of higher gas price on power producers.

Pradhan said the government wants to stabilise the economy, which had become 'bankrupt.' "The first task is to stabilise the economy," he said.

He said the NDA government is pro-reforms but it will also protect the interest of the poor.

"Economic reforms are not anti-poor. Economic reforms are, in fact, pro-poor. We need to strike a balance between the two and we will do it. I do not want to say anything more than this right now," he added.

The first increase in the price of natural gas in four years was to be effective from 1 April. However, the implementation of the decision to double gas price had to be deferred because of the general elections.