Discounting media reports that decision on the sale of BPCL and HPCL will be taken by this month-end, petroleum minister Ram Naik said the Cabinet Committee on Disinvestment (CCD), on September 7, had decided to defer a decision on the strategic sale of both oil PSUs for three months.
Refusing to elaborate, Mr Naik said Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and deputy Prime Minister LK Advani will decide on the issue after holding discussions within the government. The discussions are on, he said while pointing out that out of the Rs 9,070 crore realised through disinvestment during last three years, oil PSUs contributed Rs 7,217 crore.
Replying to a question on the disinvestment proposal of Engineers India Limited (EIL) and Balmer Lawrie, the minister said it was in the advance stage of privatisation. However, he made it clear that it had nothing to do with the disinvestment of BPCL and HPCL.
Addressing a news conference on the completion of three years of NDA government, Mr Naik said the government proposes to invite bids for the fourth round of New Exploration Licensing Policy (NELP) and second round of Coal Bed Methane (CBM) blocks in the second quarter of 2003. The move would help the country cut hydrocarbon bill in five to six years, he said.
The government has also decided to expand the market base of ethanol-blended petrol by increasing the sales in six more districts, three in UP, two in Punjab and one in Andhra.
The oil companies will sell only ethanol-blended petrol (upto 5 per cent) in nine states and four Union territories with effect from January 1, 2003. An investment of Rs 10,000 crore was made by refineries to produce quality petrol in the country, the minister said and added that oil companies are set to invest another Rs 18,000 crore to produce better quality petrol as per the recommendation of an expert committee on auto fuel policy.
Mr Naik said the government also proposes to increase the coverage of LPG (cooking gas) in the country and is likely to give more than four crore new connections to reach around 50 per cent households in the next two years
Listing other highlights of three years of the Vajpayee government, Mr Naik said more than 3.13 crore new LPG connections were given in the last three years, wiping the entire wait-list in around 400 cities and towns. The government has also introduced a five kg LPG cylinder to cater to the hilly market.
The redevelopment programme undertaken by oil exploration companies have began yielding results and so far benefited oil companies to the extent of around Rs 1,400 crore by way of increased production. The crude production increased by 9 per cent and gas production by four per cent.