Rising oil prices make Hardeep Puri's new petroleum ministry job tough nut to crack
Former Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri who was given the Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas, in the latest Union Cabinet rejig, formally took charge of his new portfolio on Thursday.
It is widely expected that Singh, a 1974-batch Indian Foreign Service (IFS) officer, will be able to chart a smoother course to navigate complex global oil politics and help in securing better crude procurement prices for India.
“Our focus will be on increasing domestic production of crude oil and natural gas. In line with PM's vision of an Aatmanirbhar Bharat, we'll work towards the development of a natural gas-based economy in country,” said Puri on Thursday while taking charge. He continues to hold an independent charge as MoS Housing and Urban Affairs.
Dharmendra Pradhan, who held the job before the Union Cabinet reshuffle, was also present on the occasion.
“Today, I feel honoured by the trust reposed by the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi who has made me the Cabinet Minister of this important ministry. Dharmendra Pradhan’s are big shoes to fill,” he further added.
He further added that the energy issues in this Ministry have immense potential and several challenges.
Puri’s new job is full of challenges given that global crude has seen a persistent increase in prices for the past few months. On Tuesday, benchmark crude prices jumped to three-year highs after Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies (OPEC+), the oil cartel which controls global production and prices, failed to reach a consensus that would increase global supply and reduced prices for consumers in India and other oil importing countries.
India's oil ministry under Pradhan had tried in vain to urge Saudi Arabia, an OPEC heavyweight, to get other 12 cartel members to cut prices. On June 25, India had urged OPEC to ease the artificial squeeze on production which was hurting energy importers and stoking inflation during fragile recovery process of several economies including itself.
In his previous roles, Puri had served as a joint secretary in the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) from 1994 to 1997, and then from 1999 to 2002. He later became secretary (economic relations) in MEA from 2009 to 2013.
“As we transform towards a 5-Trillion economy, energy availability and consumption will be of paramount importance. My focus will be on increasing domestic production of crude and natural gas, in line with the Prime Minister’s vision of Aatamnirbhar Bharat. I will also work towards development of a natural gas-based economy in the country and increase the share of natural gas in primary energy mix of the country to 15% by 2030 as announced by PM," he added.
Domestic petrol and diesel prices were hiked for a fifth time in July on Thursday. Consumers in several cities including the national capital Delhi now have to pay over Rs 100 for a litre of petrol.