New Delhi: A week after the steep hike in petrol prices by Rs 5 per litre, the government on Monday said a ministerial panel is likely to meet in the next few days to take a decision on raising diesel, LPG and kerosene rates.

An Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM) headed by Finance Minister is likely to deliberate on the Oil Ministry's demand for a minimum Rs 4 per litre hike in diesel prices and a Rs 25 per cylinder increase in LPG rates to partly bridge the gulf between domestic prices and their international cost.

"I think the EGoM meeting on diesel pricing will be called this week," Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, who is also a member of the ministerial panel, said on the sidelines of an ICAR-CII event here.

Asked if it was apt to hike diesel prices at a time of high inflation, Pawar said, "I can't react now as we have to assess the situation -- we have to see whether petroleum companies are earning or losing. We have to see how recent happenings in Gulf countries have created problems for India."

The EGoM was originally scheduled to meet on May 11, a day after polling in West Bengal ended, but the panel's meeting was postponed and no new dates have been intimated yet.

Oil companies are losing Rs 18.19 on the sale of every litre of diesel at the current price of Rs 37.75 per litre in Delhi.

In addition, state oil firms lose Rs 29.69 per litre of kerosene and Rs 329.73 per 14.2-kg domestic LPG cylinder.

Recently, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee had stated that the meeting of the EGoM on diesel pricing would be held this week.

CCEA to decide on price of kharif crops

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) is likely to take a decision soon on raising the support price of kharif crops like paddy for the 2011-12 crop year, Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar said on Monday.

"Everything (proposal) is ready. I think, next Cabinet (meeting) will be able to take a final view on support price," Pawar told reporters.

According to official sources, the Agriculture Ministry has proposed a Rs 160 hike in the MSP for paddy (common variety) to Rs 1,160/quintal for the 2011-12 crop year (July-June), against Rs 1,000 a quintal in 2010-11.

The Agriculture Ministry's proposal is in line with the recommendation of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP), which suggested a support price (common grade) of Rs 1,080/quintal for paddy and a bonus of Rs 80 on top of it.

Rice is grown in both the kharif and rabi season. Kharif sowing begins with the start of the South-West monsoon in June and harvesting starts from October, 2011.

The CACP, which suggests the MSP of 40 agri-commodities, has also recommended a substantial increase in the MSP of pulses and oilseeds in order to reduce the country's dependence on imported edible oils and pulses.

A rise in the MSP is necessary to cover farmers' labour and energy costs, which have risen by more than 20 per cent in the last one year, the CACP said in its report.

Pawar cautions Centre on Bhatta-Parsaul

Assuring all steps to prevent incidents like Bhatta-Parsaul land-row, Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar said the Centre plans to introduce amendment to the Land Acquisition Act in the next session of Parliament to protect farmers.

"Yesterday, UPA Chairperson mentioned that in this session, we would like to bring (amendment to) the Land Acquisition Bill, where the farmers interest will also be protected. This type of situation will not be repeated," Pawar said when asked about his views on the Bhatta-Parsaul incident.

Farmers' agitation against land acquisition at Bhatta-Parsaul villages in Greater Noida in Uttar Pradesh turned violent, leading to the death of four people including two policemen early this month.

The incident led to a political uproar with Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi visiting the area in support of farmers. Gandhi, who was arrested and released later, took up the issue with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Last week, Rural Development Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh had said that consultation process on the draft amendment bill would be completed by May-end after which it would be sent to the Law Ministry for vetting.

NCP happy with UPA-II

Amid reports that the NCP was feeling uneasy in UPA, Sharad Pawar on Monday said his party was satisfied with the two-year performance of the UPA-II regime.

"As a partner, we are also happy with what we have achieved," the Agriculture Minister said in the backdrop of reports that after DMK, the NCP was feeling uncomfortable in the UPA.

Asked about Opposition blaming the government for corruption, inflation and poor international relations, Pawar said, "We see how the economy has grown, how agriculture has grown. In all these sectors, performance is satisfactory".

"Some issues were raised (like corruption). The moment the issues were raised, the government has taken tough actions and this is known to everybody. To control these aspects also, the government is trying to take right steps," he said.

NCP is the fourth largest constituent of the UPA after Congress, Trinamool Congress and DMK.

JPN/Agencies