Partial reversal in India petrol price hike

State-run Indian refiners partially rolled back a huge hike in petrol prices Saturday following widespread public protests and anger among the national government's coalition members.

The move means that petrol will now cost 71.16 ($1.28) per litre compared with the current 73.18 rupees, the country's largest refiner Indian Oil said in a statement.

The decision came after a regular two-week review of prices by the oil marketing companies and follows a fall in international oil prices.

The average price paid by energy-scarce India, which imports much of its oil, for crude has fallen to around $106 a barrel from $113 in the past two weeks.

But a sharp fall in the Indian rupee due to concerns over the country's economic growth has offset some of the benefits of the global price decline.

The May 23 hike of 11.5 percent in petrol prices followed a series of much smaller increases last year.

Opposition parties led by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party spearheaded a strike on Thursday against the price hike, disrupting transport services and forcing the closure of markets in many cities.

The government retains complete control over the heavily subsidised costs of diesel, cooking gas and kerosene, which are used by India's poor masses.

But the state-run fuel retailers -- Indian Oil, Bharat Petroleum Corp and Hindustan Petroleum Corp -- can revise gasoline prices every two weeks after consultation with the government.

The Congress-led government deregulated petrol prices in 2010 in a reform aimed at reducing the massive subsidies it pays to state-run fuel refiners which rely on imported energy.

"The logic in favor of increasing the prices of diesel, liquid petroleum gases and kerosene is unassailable, but politics and logic don't go together," Oil Minister Jaipal Reddy said earlier in the week.

Indian Oil said it had sustained losses of 10.5 billion rupees since the start of this financial year, on April 1.

The high cost of imported fuel is partly blamed for the ballooning of India's current-account deficit -- the gap between exports and goods and services imports -- to its widest level in eight years.


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