EGoM defers decision on fuel price hike on absence on key members

A decision in the matter of the fuel price hike hot potato was deferred indefinitely today after some key members of a high-power committee on pricing of petroleum fuels were unable to attend the meeting scheduled for yesterday.

The empowered group met as scheduled under finance minister Pranab Mukherjee. Mukherjee's oil ministry colleague Murli Deora, was also present but with agriculture minister Sharad Pawar and railway minister Mamata Banerjee absent, a decision was deferred.

According to officials Pawar is to undergo throat surgery in Mumbai, whereas Banerjee whose Trinamool Congress remains strongly opposed to any move to hike prices of fuels at this stage, had prior engagements.

That apart, road transport minister Kamal Nath was also not available as he was said to be travelling. The EGoM's other members include chemicals and fertiliser minister M K Azhagiri and planning commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia.

"A decision to increase fuel prices has been postponed. The empowered group of ministers will meet soon to take a call," petroleum secretary S Sundareshan told reporters after the hour-long meeting.

Deora, who has been pushing for petroleum sector reform had told reporters, ahead of the meeting, in response to a question as to whether it was the right time to increase fuel prices, "It has to be done when price rise was one of the main concerns for the government.