India to Meet Fuel Pump Owners Over Daily Price Change Impasse

  • Owners want plan deferred till full automation is achieved
  • Daily change to make fuel prices more transparent: Indian Oil

India’s Oil Minister Dharmendra Pradhan will on Wednesday evening meet private pump owners, comprising over 90 percent of total fuel stations in the country, in an attempt to end a deadlock over daily price revisions of gasoline and diesel across the nation from Friday.

Groups representing private fuel-station owners, protesting against the move, have  threatened to go on strike on concern the infrastructure for implementation of daily revision of prices is not in place. Executives from state-run Indian Oil Corp., Hindustan Petroleum Corp. and Bharat Petroleum Corp., which announced the plan last week, have held several meetings with pump owners in the past few days to allay their apprehensions.

A pan-India strike will disrupt fuel supplies across the country, halt movement of goods and commodities, and stoke inflation. It also threatens oil consumption that recovered last month after a cash crunch triggered by the government withdrawing high-denomination banknotes in November resulted in a drop in demand. The International Energy Agency expects India to be the fastest-growing oil consumer through 2040.

“Dealers are not against daily price changes, but are against a very premature induction of this mechanism,” Ravi Shinde, general secretary of the Consortium of India Petroleum Dealers, said in Mumbai. “This is a cart before the horse story. This entire system is based on automation of retail outlets so that prices change automatically at midnight. That system is in a pathetic condition.”

Fuel-station owners will seek a delay in implementation of daily revision until all pumps are automated, Shinde said.

Indian Oil Corp., the biggest fuel retailer in the country, has stepped up efforts to notify prices under the daily-revision regime, according to a statement. Currently, state-run fuel retailers revise prices of gasoline and diesel once every fortnight.

Daily revisions will make rates “more reflective of current market conditions, minimizing volatility in retail selling price,” Indian Oil said on June 8. State-run fuel retailers decided to start daily price revisions across the country about a month after a trial run in five cities.

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