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Govt may hike fuel prices next week

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The government may hike petrol, diesel, cooking gas and kerosene prices simultaneously as early as next week, with Oil Minister S Jaipal Reddy today saying "difficult and painful" decisions need to be taken.

"There are no immediate proposals to raise prices of various oil products including petrol," Reddy told reporters.

Though he did not specify when the hike may take place, indications are it could be done after the Cabinet meets next week.

The Ministry is wary that if oil firms are allowed to raise just petrol prices today or tomorrow, the political opposition to the unpopular decision may force the hands of the Cabinet into not hiking diesel, LPG and kerosene rates.

With oil firms losing a record Rs 560 crore per day on sale of regulated diesel and cooking fuels and another Rs 16 a day on petrol, the Oil Ministry is pushing for raising rates once the Monsoon Session of Parliament ends today.

"We are of course facing treacherous crisis of unpredictable magnitude... Our oil companies will lose huge, nearly Rs 200,000 crore (if rates are not raised)," Reddy said, adding that steps need to be taken to reduce this deficit. "We have to take some difficult, painful decisions."

On the political opposition to raising fuel rates, Reddy said fuel pricing was a classic case of "politics defeating economics".

Reddy said he has moved a note for the consideration of the Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs (CCPA) explaining the precarious situation facing the oil sector. "It is my duty as a minister to bring facts to the notice of CCPA. When will it meet, I have no idea".

State-owned fuel retailers are losing over Rs 5 per litre on sale of petrol, a commodity which was freed from government control in June 2010 but whose rates haven't moved in tandem with cost.

They sell diesel at a loss of Rs 19.26 a litre, kerosene at Rs 34.34 per litre and domestic LPG at Rs 347 per 14.2-kg cylinder.