The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Petrol price cut, but Left fire still burns

New Delhi, Nov. 15: Petrol will now cost over Re 1 less per litre ' a benefit oil companies have been able to pass on with world crude prices tumbling to an eight-week low of under $47 a barrel.

Diesel and cooking gas prices, raised along with that of petrol 11 days ago, will be unchanged.

From midnight tonight, petrol will cost Rs 40.89 per litre in Calcutta, a decrease of Rs 1.21 from the earlier price of Rs 42.10.

The last revision of petroleum prices, carried out after a long lull though world prices had been going up, had triggered strong protests from the Left allies of Manmohan Singh's government, apart from the Opposition.

Today's petrol price cut was greeted by CPM politburo member Sitaram Yechury as 'inadequate'. He asked the government to reconsider the increase in prices of diesel and cooking gas.

'The reduction only in the price of petrol is inadequate. We have been asking the government to review its petroleum pricing policy, especially after the dismantling of the administered price mechanism,' Yechury said.

As part of the abolition of government-controlled pricing, oil companies are allowed to adjust prices in line with international trends. But, before the last Lok Sabha elections, the BJP-led government kept prices frozen for over five months.

Singh's administration, too, followed in its predecessor's footsteps before last month's Maharashtra polls.

The cut today is, however, being described as a consequence of fortnightly revision.

An official said diesel had not been touched as the domestic price was still 50 paise a litre lower than the import price. Since diesel is a politically sensitive fuel used in agriculture and public transport, the price has been kept below international rates.

It is not something that has kept the United Progressive Alliance government's Left allies happy. 'The issue will come up for discussion at the next UPA-Left coordination committee meeting,' said CPI general secretary A.B. Bardhan.

'We want the government to moderate the increase in diesel price,' he added.

The Left parties insist that the government can avoid price increases by restructuring customs duties.

The cut comes after three bouts of increases in petrol and diesel prices since the UPA government took over in May, the latest being on November 4.

In world markets, crude oil prices fell today to $46.73 a barrel, the lowest price since September 22 and about 17 per cent below a record high of $55.67 on October 25.

Growing fuel stocks in the US have eased fears of a winter supply crunch. Swelling stockpiles and signs that high energy costs are dulling economic growth, chipping away at fuel demand, have also triggered an exodus of speculative funds from the oil markets.

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