Reform PDS by digitising the system: Pawar

Food and agriculture minister Sharad Pawar today said the time is ripe to introduce reforms in public distribution system (PDS) by digitising the entire system, reports PTI.

"Computerisation of the entire network of targeted public distribution system (TPDS) operation is a must and should be completed in a time-bound manner," Mr Pawar said at a conference of food secretaries in New Delhi.

He said the government has already initiated the process of computerisation of PDS network up to the Food Corporation of India (FCI) delivery point.

"It is essential that our efforts in this direction to be accelerated so as to cover the entire distribution chain from the procurement process and ending with retail distribution at fair price shop level," Mr Pawar said while adding, states should also simultaneously take up such networking at their end.

The minister said, use of technologies such as global positioning systems (GPS) for tracking of movement of PDS commodities, bar-coded ration coupons, digitisation of ration card database and smart cards would also help in bring changes in the system and it need to be taken up.

"The time has come to have a re-look at the way it has been functioning and introduce reforms so as to make our TPDS more efficient and responsive to the changing socio-economic milieu," Mr Pawar said.


IOC, BPCL weighing proposal to buy some Shell petrol pumps

Shell, the only foreign fuel retailer in India, is looking at selling some of its 80 petrol pumps in the country even though it continues to build new ones to cover more regions

Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) and Bharat Petroleum Corporation (BPCL) are evaluating a proposal to buy petrol pumps owned by Royal Dutch Shell even though the state-owned firms are wary of the valuations, reports PTI.

The India arm of global energy giant Shell wants to sell some of its 80 petrol pumps.

"They (Shell) have approached us. We are looking at it," IOC chairman B M Bansal told reporters in New Delhi. "We haven't yet decided (on making a bid). It will depend on the locations they are offering."

IOC would not like to bid for outlets in locations where the company already has a presence, he said.

A BPCL official said the company too is looking at the offer from Shell but HPCL said it had declined the offer a few months back.

Industry sources said Shell outlets on offer are mostly in prime locations in big cities like Bengaluru, with cost of land alone over Rs4 crore each. Along with infrastructure, each outlet may cost more than Rs6 crore.

Shell, the only foreign fuel retailer in India, is looking at selling some of its 80 petrol pumps in the country even though it continues to build new ones to cover more regions.

BPCL official said Shell is offering 20-30 outlets but an IOC executive said as many as half of its petrol pumps may be on offer.

Reliance Industries (RIL) and Essar Oil, the nation's only private refiners, may also be interested in Shell's petrol pumps.

Both the firms are looking at expanding their retail network after the government announced decontrol of petrol price and a marginal increase in diesel price.

RIL and Essar have not been able to compete with the state retailers, who got government subsidy for selling petrol and diesel at price below cost.

Essar, which currently operates 1,342 outlets will open at least 400 more by March 2011. Of the 1,432 petrol pumps of RIL only just over 600 are currently operational. RIL had shut its outlets in 2008 as it could not compete with state retailers.



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State-owned OMCs to cartelise price of deregulated petrol

IOC, BPCL and HPCL are likely to act as a cartel and revise petrol prices every fortnight on the basis of fortnightly average of crude oil prices

State-owned oil marketing companies (OMCs) Indian Oil Corporation (IOC), Bharat Petroleum Corporation (BPCL) and Hindustan Petroleum Corporation (HPCL) will continue to act as a cartel while revising petrol prices every fortnight in the free pricing regime, which looks set to kick in as early as this week, reports PTI.

Petrol prices were freed from government control last month, resulting in a Rs3.50 per litre rate hike in Delhi.

However, the modalities of subsequent retail price adjustments — in line with changes in raw material cost — were left for the industry to decide.

Though diesel prices were raised by an ad-hoc Rs2 per litre, it continues to be under government control.

"It makes no sense for public sector undertakings (PSUs) to compete among themselves if only petrol prices are being freed. Oil marketing companies (or state-run fuel retailers) will continue to coordinate on the pricing of petrol," said a top oil PSU executive.

IOC, BPCL and HPCL are likely to revise petrol prices twice a month on the basis of fortnightly average of crude oil prices.

Stating that the modalities are likely to be finalised this week, he said that pump rates may be revised at least once this month.

The three companies would have a uniform rate for petrol in particular cities or locations, and it would change on the same dates.

"We will not announce dates of revision in advance to avoid hoarding of the fuel. Instead of changes in rates on the 1st and 16th of every month, we will revise prices on any day of the month," he said.

"For example, prices can be revised on the 29th or 2nd of the month, instead of the usual practice of revising on the 1st. Similarly, rates may change on 14th or 17th instead of the 16th," the executive added.

Oil secretary S Sundareshan said the change needed in the retail selling price of petrol will be known on 15th July (based on the average cost of oil in the first fortnight), and the modalities would flow thereof.

"OMCs have been consulting among themselves (on the modalities), and now, discussions would be held at the ministry level. Very shortly, modalities like frequency of price changes will be announced," he said.

Sources said that the three PSUs have already held discussions with private retailers — Reliance Industries (RIL), Essar Oil and Royal Dutch/Shell — on modalities such as frequency and intervals at which prices would be revised.

Initially, the oil ministry was not in favour of fortnightly revisions and the same line was adopted by market leader IOC. However, most of the other retailers favoured fortnightly revisions in retail rates to reflect changes in cost of raw material (crude oil).


Those in favour of a 15-day cycle for price adjustment argue that oil firms already have a mechanism of calculating the desired fuel prices on the 1st and 16th of every month, and the same just needs to be passed on to the consumers now.

Also, rates of aviation turbine fuel (ATF), which was freed from government control in 2002, change with cost every fortnight.

The BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government had decontrolled petrol and diesel prices on 1 April, 2002, and they were being revised every fortnight for nearly 21 months. The practice was stopped a few months before the general elections in May 2004, and the controls were back in place when the then United Progressive Alliance (UPA) came to power.

An Empowered Group of Minister (EGoM), headed by finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, decided to free petrol and diesel prices from government control on 25th June. While petrol was decontrolled with immediate effect, diesel was put on hold for the time being.

Freeing of petrol price resulted in a Rs3.50 per litre hike in petrol prices while diesel rates were raised by an ad-hoc Rs2 per litre, instead of the Rs3.80 per litre increase required to align them with the international market.

Also, domestic liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) prices were increased by Rs35 per 14.2 kg cylinder. Kerosene rates were hiked by Rs3 per litre to cut the government\'s fuel subsidy.


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