External Affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee on Saturday ruled out a rollback in oil prices and pressed for India's case to sign the nuclear deal with US.
Mukherjee, who was speaking at the 107th annual general meeting of the Merchants' Chamber of Commerce in Kolkata, said that the escalating under-recoveries suffered by the oil marketing companies has gone out of hand and "cannot be kept under any carpet". This has prompted the Centre to pass on the burden to consumers.
Mukherjee, who was flanked by chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, said that when the UPA government assumed office four years back, the price of crude was around $35 per barrel.
Now, the price has shot up to $139 per barrel. Elaborating on the mounting losses incurred by oil marketing companies, Mukherjee said that the under-recoveries, have swelled from Rs 40,000 crore to Rs 2.25 lakh crore.
On the issue of nuclear deal, Mukherjee said that in order to keep pace with a surging economy, nuclear power seems to be the only viable alternative to sustain India's impressive growth story. Confident about a 9 per cent GDP growth during the 11th plan period, Mukherjee said that in order to make it an inclusive growth, the Centre has to ensure that the quality of life of the 238 million people living below poverty line, improve.
“For this, we need more food, more jobs and more power," Mukherjee said. He also mentioned that while there will be increasing pressure on the availability of coal and constraints to generate green energy, there is also a need for nuclear power. Putting things in perspective, the minister pointed out that in order to sustain the 9 per cent growth momentum, India's power requirement will be to the tune of 8,00,000 MW by 2030 from the present 1,60,000 MW. Nuclear power currently constitutes a meager 4,000 MW, while thermal power is 49,000 MW, hydel 35.000 MW and renewable 10,000 MW.
Mukherjee also urged the state government to share the roadmap prepared by the industry and commerce department with all responsible members of society to facilitate a hassle-free setting up of industries. "We must follow this path, " he said. It may be mentioned that land acquisition for industries is a tricky issue with almost all the state governments and especially West Bengal.
The recent reversal of fortunes for the ruling Left front in the panchayat polls in West Bengal, where the CPI(M) faced drubbings in places like Nandigram and Singur, bears testimony to the fact. Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said the government needs to tread a careful path to address the issue.