In a mix of populist and reform measures, government today raised the quota on supply of subsidised cooking gas (LPG) to nine cylinders per household from six and virtually deregulated diesel prices allowing "small" hikes over a period of time.
Diesel prices in all probability may be hiked by Rs 1.50-2.0 per litre in the first instance that can be as early as tonight following the decision taken by the Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs (CCPA) headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
The CCPA however left LPG and kerosene prices unchanged.
"The CCPA considered the issue of raising the cap from six to nine and the CCPA has agreed and raised the cap from six cylinders (per household in a year) to nine," Oil Minister M Veerappa Moily told reporters here.
"As far as diesel is concerned, oil marketing companies have been authorised to make price correction from time to time," he said. "It (price correction) can commence even from today."
However, Finance Minister P Chidambaram maintained that the oil companies have been allowed to make "small correction ... I am looking at same subsidy bill as was expected earlier".
Administered diesel price has always been a sensitive issue with the fuel being consumed in large measure by public transport and freight carriers. It is always feared that any hike in its rates can lead to a cascading effect on prices.
Price of diesel was last revised on September 14 when it was hiked by a steep Rs 5.63 per litre. At present, diesel costs Rs 47.15 per litre in Delhi.
Subsidised LPG costs Rs 410.50 per 14.2-kg cylinder and any household requirement beyond the new limit of 9 cylinders will cost a near market price of Rs 895.50 per bottle.
The government had in September capped the supply of subsidised cooking gas to six cylinders per household in a year, with a view to checking diversion to unintended beneficiaries.
However the decision met with widespread protests as only 44 per cent of population used six or less cylinders in a year.
With today's decision, consumers will get five subsidised cylinders instead of the previously mandated three in the period up to March 31, 2013. From April 1, 2013 they will get nine cylinders in a year.
Moily said there will be no change in price of LPG and kerosene.
The increase in