• BPCL privatisation: Pradhan says no role of govt in business; competition to benefit consumers

    Days before the Union Cabinet takes up a proposal to privatise state-owned BPCL, Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan on Thursday said the government has ‘no business to be in business’, and cited examples of telecom and aviation sectors where opening up had led to increased competition and price cuts to the benefit of consumers.

    Refusing to comment specifically on the possibility of government selling its 53.29 per cent stake along with management control in oil marketing and refining firm Bharat Petroleum Corp Ltd (BPCL) for about USD 10 billion (around Rs 70,900 crore), he said the role of the government should be to create policy framework guarantees “affordability, accessibility, sustainability and security” of fuel to consumers.

    “When Prime Minister (Narendra Modi) says the government has no business to be in business, it is not a slogan. It is a philosophy,” he said. “Our PSUs have done a commendable job in the building modern India and ensuring availability of fuel to the common man. But the common man will benefit most from the competition.”

    Pradhan said telecom and aviation sectors are shining examples of what competition can do for consumers.

    Opening up of these sectors to private players had led to a crash in phone call rates and internet charges as well as provided the wider options to travelers to choose from affordable airfare.

    “This democracy is committed to the common man of the country. We have to create ease of living through more open and process-driven regulation. Product is important, who is running it is not important,” he said.

    He refused to be drawn into timelines for stake sale in BPCL, the country’s second-biggest state-run oil refining and marketing company.

    It is being speculated that the Union Cabinet may take up a proposal to privatize BPCL as early as next week.

    Stake sale in BPCL is critical for the government to meet its disinvestment target of Rs 1.05 lakh crore set for the current fiscal year.

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