The UPA govt has revealed yet another austerity drive in an effort to curb expenditure and save the Indian economy. Staggered office timings for government employees to decongest traffic and staffers taking public transport to workplace once a week are part of a mega oil conservation drive unveiled by Indian Oil Minister M Veerappa Moily today to save USD 5 billion in oil imports.
Battling a record current account deficit (CAD) that is a result of mounting oil import bill,M Veerappa Moily is hoping these measures together with a Rs 52 crore nationwide six week mega campaign to propagate conservation of oil and gas will help taper demand,thereby cutting oil import bill by USD 5 billion.
India spent USD 144.29 billion last fiscal on importing its oil needs,which is the single biggest item impacting the CAD.
“I have written to Minister of State for Personnel,Public Grievances and Pensions,asking him to consider ‘staggered office timings’ for Government offices,which will help in decongesting road traffic during peak hours,” he told a press conference here.
He also asked Chief Ministers,central ministries and PSU heads to declare one day of the week as ‘bus day’ during which staffers be encouraged to utilise only public transport for their daily commute.
While there is no evidence of his Ministry’s fortnightly fuel conservation drive every year actually denting demand,M Veerappa Moily did not say his Ministry and PSUs under it would lead by example and declare ‘Bus Day’.
“Every year the Petroleum Conservation Research Association (under Oil Ministry) does an awareness campaign for a fortnight at a cost of Rs 20 crore. This year we will do a mega campaign at more than double the cost,” he said.
He also asked Urban Development Minister to introduce “Free Cycle Scheme” in select cities for saving fuel and offered funding support from oil sector companies.
M Veerappa Moily said India imported more than 75 per cent of its crude oil needs and projected oil consumption rising to 160.04 million tonnes this fiscal from 155.417 million tonnes last year.
The recent move to supply diesel at market price to bulk consumers like railways and defence and ca[pping the number of cooking gas cylinders to 9 refils in a year had resulted in negative growth of 1.6 per cent in diesel sales and 1 per cent in cooking gas consumption.
“We need to do more to conserve fuel or face tougher choices such as steep price increase or even quantitative restrictions,” he said.
The Mega Campaign will involve youth icons like Virat Kohli and Saina Nehwal propagating the message of fuel conservation. Fuel saving tips will be communicated through smart phone applications and new media tools.
The campaign would encourage proper driving habits,better maintenance of vehicles,use of carpooling for going to offices and schools,switching off engines at traffic lights and driver training to minimise the wastage of fuel.
“The objective will be to motivate the consumers in cities and towns to minimise their fuel bills,thereby helping our Nation in reducing oil imports,” he said.
The activities planned in the campaign include direct interaction with consumers to encourage them in adopting conservation measures while using TV,print and electronic media to generate awareness on the issue.
Moily said oil firms sell petrol and diesel doped with special additives that enhance fuel efficiency,reduce maintenance cost and cut pollution.
“However,these fuels are more costly due to higher statutory duties,my Ministry will take up the issue with Ministry of Finance so that the duty structure is rationalised which will promote their mass consumption,” he said.