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Aiyar-Chidambaram meet on petroleum price hike inconclusive

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The Minister for Petroleum and Natural Gas, Mr Mani Shankar Aiyar, coming out after meeting the Finance Minister, Mr P. Chidambaram, at the North Block in the Capital on Monday. — Kamal Narang

New Delhi , April 25

THE much-awaited meeting between the Finance Minister, Mr P. Chidambaram, and the Petroleum Minister, Mr Mani Shankar Aiyar, here on Monday to discuss the issue pertaining to hiking the petroleum product prices remained inconclusive.

Speaking to presspersons after his meeting with the Finance Minister, Mr Aiyar said: "We have done a fair bit of number crunching this afternoon. I will begin a consensus building exercise within the UPA coalition including the Left before taking the matter of price revision to the Cabinet."

This was an initial meeting in the process of raising fuel prices, he said adding, "We will continue having negotiations. There is no specific time on raising fuel prices," he said.

The Government will ensure equal distribution of the burden due to a hike in prices by splitting the costs between all stakeholders - consumers, oil companies and the Government, he stated adding, that "I am more than convinced about Finance Minister's statement that the Budget proposals are revenue neutral."

The Finance Ministry has not accepted any suggestions on cut in duties to avoid an increase in petrol and diesel prices. The duty cut was expected to lessen the impact on the consumer. The Budget for 2005-06 has proposed lowering the Customs duty on crude oil, LPG, kerosene, petrol and diesel but raised the excise duty on petrol and diesel.

The excise duty on LPG and kerosene was, however, lowered. The increase in the excise duty has prompted demand for an increase of Rs 2.52 per litre in petrol prices and Rs 1.65 a litre for diesel.

Besides, excise duty changes coupled with the increase in cost of crude oil and hike in cess for road development have necessitated a Rs 4.59 per litre increase in petrol and Rs 5.18 a litre in diesel prices. Though duty changes were projected to be revenue neutral by the Finance Ministry, the increase in excise duty on petrol and diesel were estimated to net an additional Rs 3,000 crore for the Centre.

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