New Delhi: Amid the skyrocketing oil prices burning a hole in the common man’s pocket and the US’ threat to sanctions on nations buying oil from Iran, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will on Monday brainstorm with chief executives of top global and Indian oil and gas companies on emerging energy scenario.
Despite the government’s move earlier this month to reduce VAT on fuel prices by Rs 2.5 and several BJP-ruled states announcing a similar rate cut on petrol and diesel prices, there has not been much relief for the common as the petrol reached Rs 82.72 per litre in Delhi and Rs 88.18 in Mumbai on Sunday.
With the opposition cornering the government over spiralling fuel prices, the issue has become a major concern for the Narendra Modi government at the Centre as it comes ahead of the Assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Mizoram and also the Lok Sabha elections due next year.
PM Modi held a review meeting with Finance Minister Arun Jailtey and Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan at the national capital on Friday.
“The PM’s meeting in the morning was on petroleum issues. The discussion centered around increasing domestic oil production, subsidy borne by oil marketing companies (OMCs) and reducing oil imports to cut down the current account deficit,” a senior official said.
The meeting assumes significance as the US sanction against Iran kicks-in on November 4 and India is dependent on imports for more than 80 per cent of its oil requirement.
The third annual meeting would also deliberate on ways to revive investment in oil and gas exploration and production, official sources said.
Modi’s first meeting was on January 5, 2016 where suggestions for reforming natural gas prices were made. More than a year later, the government allowed higher natural gas price for yet-to-be-produced fields in difficult areas like deep sea.
In the last edition in October 2017, suggestions were made for giving out equity to foreign and private companies in producing oil and gas fields of state-owned ONGC and OIL. But the plan could not go through in view of strong opposition from Oil and Natural Gas Corp (ONGC).
Sources said Saudi Oil Minister Khalid A Al Falih, BP CEO Bob Dudley, Total head Patrick Fouyane, Reliance Industries Chairman Mukesh Ambani and Vedanta chief Anil Agarwal are expected to attend the meeting Monday.
The meeting, coordinated by the NITI Aayog, is likely to focus on challenges posed by volatile oil prices and the US sanctions on Iran.
The meeting would look at measures to attract investments and steps for making it easier to do business in India.
Sources said reforms initiated in the last four years in the oil and gas sector, including open acreage policy, pricing reforms and liberalised licensing policy, will be showcased and suggestions would be sought on what more can be done to hasten growth.
The government is looking at private investment to raise domestic oil and gas production, which has stagnated for the last few years while fuel demand has been rising by 5-6 per cent annually. India is dependent on imports to meet 83 per cent of its demand and more than half of its natural gas requirements.
The Prime Minister in 2015 had set a target of reducing India’s oil dependence by 10 per cent to 67 per cent (based on import dependence of 77 per cent in 2014-15) by 2022. Import dependence has only increased since then and the government is now looking for ways to raise domestic output.
Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) Secretary General Mohammed Barkindo and India’s Oil Minister Dharmendra Pradhan would also attend the meeting, they said.
Also likely to attend the meeting are ONGC Chairman and Managing Director Shashi Shanker, Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) Chairman Sanjiv Singh, GAIL India head B C Tripathi, Hindustan Petroleum Corp Ltd (HPCL) Chairman Mukesh Kumar Suran, Oil India Chairman Utpal Bora and Bharat Petroleum Corp Ltd (BPCL) Chairman D Rajkumar.