For the first time this session, the Lok Sabha functioned during Question Hour. And MPs who pestered Petroleum Minister Murli Deora to cut oil prices finally got an assurance from the minister, that a price review would be done within a week.
“The matter is being examined and an announcement would be made within a week,” Deora told Lok Sabha after members insisted that fuel prices must be lowered in keeping with reduced global crude prices, and threw a volley of questions at him.
The Planning Commission has already asked the Prime Minister’s Office to reduce retail prices of petroleum products when global crude oil prices stabilise below $65 a barrel. It has also said reduction in fuel prices will have a huge impact on inflation, which is expected to fall to six per cent level by February next year.
Lok Sabha hasn’t had a functional Question Hour — that makes the executive answerable to the legislature — this session.
On Thursday, Speaker Somnath Chatterjee finally prevented yet another attempt to disrupt proceedings, severely admonishing members for their unruly behaviour and for making the last few days the “worst period” of his life.
In an emotional outburst, Chatterjee emphasised that he had nothing to gain out of his post but only wanted the House to function. “I am on my way out. Don’t think it will influence me. The House should remain.”
Once Question Hour was underway, members pointed to the decline in international oil prices and demanded a proportionate decrease. Deora initially tried to avoid giving a firm assurance, pointing to the depreciation of the rupee that had negated some of the price benefit due to reduced global prices and the meeting of oil producing countries on Friday.
After the fifth “identical” question, he finally came up with his assurance to decide within a week.
The government’s reluctance to drop prices comes from the fluctuations in international prices. Deora quoted a global price of $61.47 for Thursday in the House. By evening, global prices had risen to nearly $ 67 a barrel.