M Veerappa Moily rescinds order to shift gas pricing portfolio

Written by PTI | New Delhi | Updated: Aug 15 2013, 17:07pm hrs
BusinessEthanol blending in petrol portfolio has been transfered from marketing wing to refineries division.
With his move to divest a joint secretary of gas pricing portfolio kicking up a controversy, Oil Minister M Veerappa Moily has rescinded the decision, restoring it with the officer 'for the time-being'.

Moily had on August 6 decided to transfer the gas pricing portfolio out of Joint Secretary (Exploration) Aramane Giridhar's functions and shift it to Joint Secretary incharge of International Cooperation & Gas Pricing (JS IC&GP).

The move, according to Moily, was aimed at lessening Aramane's burden and realign portfolios as JS-IC&GP was incharge of gas division with responsibilities including allocation of natural gas and pricing of gas from nominated fields. Gas pricing from NELP blocks like Reliance Industries' KG-D6 block was, however, with JS (Exploration).

An oil ministry official said the ministry yesterday issued orders transferring the gas pricing from JS(E) to JS(IC&GP) but later Moily had a rethink and the portfolio was reverted back to Aramane.

"This was done primarily because the ministry is to file an affidavit in Supreme Court on a petition challenging the June 27 decision of the Cabinet to raise gas prices. Since Aramane had piloted the move, it was decided that the function remains with him at least until filing of the affidavit, which has to be done by September 6," the official said.

The move to divest Aramane, a 1988-batch IAS officer of the Andhra Pradesh cadre who was brought into the ministry by Moily's predecessor S Jaipal Reddy, was criticised by CPI MP Gurudas Dasgupta. Dasgupta alleged that an 'honest officer' inconvenient to RIL was "transferred" out.

Reacting strongly to it, Moily said the decision was not taken "to respond to anybody's needs" and offered to quit if even an iota of evidence was produced on the charges.

Exploration portfolio, where RIL had faced challenges in getting approvals, continued with Aramane. Also, after the Cabinet decided on the pricing for five years upto March 31, 2019, there was not much work left on the pricing front other than implementation, he said.

Sources said Oil Secretary Vivek Rae had requested Moily to reconsider his August 6 decision to take away gas pricing from Aramane saying the incoming officer would not have "domain expertise" to handle it.

The official said but for the gas pricing, the other parts of Moily's order -- shifting coal-bed methane and shale gas to JS-IC&GP--have been carried out.

Also, ethanol blending in petrol portfolio has been transfered from marketing wing to refineries division.

In response to Dasgupta's charges, Moily had on Tuesday stated that the very same Joint Secretary, for whom Dasgupta had taken up cudgels for, along with the DGH had rejected proposals for developing gas fields as they found the current price of USD 4.2 not sufficient enough.