New Delhi: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Finance Minister P Chidambaram have rejected the Oil Ministry's proposal of keeping petrol pumps open only from 8 am to 8 pm. Reacting to the proposal, Chidambaram said, "It's not a government suggestion but one which had come from the public as the Oil Minister has himself clarified. Should the government close itself to the public's suggestions?"
This came after the government faced criticism over the Oil Ministry's proposal. Petroleum Minister Veerappa Moily was on the backfoot after his suggestion of having petrol pumps open for 12 hours in a day.
There was uproar in Parliament over Moily's proposal in view of the ongoing economic crisis. The Trinamool Congress and the Samajwadi Party staged a walkout while the BJP said that Moily should have taken the House into confidence as the Parliament is in session.
Moily said that the idea to keep petrol pumps open from 8 am to 8 pm was not the government's idea but had come from the public. He went on to say that the ministry has not taken any decision yet and no decision will be taken to keep petrol pumps dry in any part of the country.
BJP leader Yashwant Sinha dismissed the suggestions saying it will worsen the economic situation. "Why is the government making such suggestions? This will only worsen the situation in the country. I strongly oppose the suggestion," Sinha said.
The Left Front, too, condemned the idea. "This decision is preposterous. This is like a pre-economic emergency crisis. We condemn this. The government should take oil from Iran," said Left leader Gurudas Dagupta.
"Shutting petrol pumps at night will not lead to less consumption. This is not a solution and the government should talk to everyone and come up with a solution," Samajwadi Party leader Naresh Aggarwal said.
While experts called it an 'ill-advised' idea saying it may create panic in the market, many said this may lead to black-marketing. "This idea to keep petrol pumps closed from 8 pm to 8 am is a very ill advised idea. It's not going to work. This idea if implemented will create black market and panic. You can put some night surcharge but don't stop selling it," said petroleum sector analyst Narendra Taneja.
The Oil Ministry had suggested austerity measures to cut fuel consumption. Under the new suggestions, 24-hour petrol pumps in cities could be done away with and replaced with petrol bunks that are open only from 8 am to 8 pm.
The decision, meanwhile, has not yet been finalised and will be announced later. At present the government has no role in deciding the timings of petrol pumps.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had asked Oil Minister Veerappa Moily to save $ 25 billion in the current financial year from oil imports. Moily had earlier suggested a further increase in fuel prices to the Prime Minister and Finance Minister.
The proposal comes after fuel prices were hiked across the country with petrol prices being raised by Rs 2.35 per litre and diesel by 50 paise per litre.