Reddy cuts short visit following petrol hike

New Delhi: A day after state-owned oil companies hiked petrol price by a massive Rs 7.54 a litre, Oil Minister S Jaipal Reddy today cut short his official visit to Turkmenistan by a day to be in the national capital to field questions on the steepest ever increase in the fuel price.

Reddy, who was to return after signing of the pact to buy natural gas through the US-based Turkmenistan-Afghanistan -Pakistan-India pipeline, was to return here only tomorrow evening. He is now returning this evening, sources privy to the development said.

Besides defending his oil companies` decision to raise petrol price, Reddy`s availability in national capital was required for a high-powered ministerial panel meeting likely tomorrow to discuss raising diesel and domestic LPG prices.

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee headed Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM) is tentatively being proposed to meet sometime tomorrow and Reddy`s presence at the meeting was essential, they said.

"Finance Ministry had yesterday sought to know the availability of Reddy for the EGoM meeting on Friday. They were told that he is returning only on Friday evening. Subsequently, Reddy preponed his departure from Turkmenistan," a source said.

While the state-owned oil firms have the freedom to decide on petrol prices, EGoM takes a call on rates of diesel, domestic LPG and kerosene, prices of which haven`t changed since June last year. Oil companies are currently losing Rs 15.35 per litre on diesel, Rs 32.98 a litre on kerosene and Rs 479 per 14.2-kg domestic LPG cylinder.