Congress politician 'blackmails' GSPC in Yanam

Vol 15, PW 10 (17 Nov 11) People & Policy

‘Blackmail’ is a bold allegation to make but GSPC has no qualms using the word to describe the demands of Malladi Krishna Rao, a Congress Party legislator in southern India.

Rao represents the Yanam district in the state assembly of former French colony Puducherry and wants GSPC to spend over Rs100cr ($20m) on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives before he allows it to build an onshore ‘landfall facility’ on a 625-sq metre piece of land so it can receive Deen Dayal gas from its under-development shallow water block KG-OSN-2001/3. GSPC also wants to set up a ‘gas isolation valve station’ at Yanam and lay a 3-km pipeline to transport gas to an under-construction 285-acre gas processing and receiving onshore terminal at Mallavaram village in Andhra Pradesh.

“Our work at Yanam is limited,” says a senior GSPC source. “Rao’s threat is ‘pay up’ or don’t work.

” GSPC claims Rao is inciting local fishermen to protest against the company unless his demands are met. “Local fishermen are ill-informed,” we are told.

“Rao benefits from their ignorance and enjoys their support. They think he’s their messiah.

” GSPC says it wants the Puducherry state-government to rein in the errant politician. “If we pay money we will pay it to the state-government,” says a GSPC source.

“Why should we buckle under pressure from Rao and pay him” GSPC representatives have met Rao several times over the past few months seeking a ‘settlement’ but to no avail. “First GSPC offered to spend Rs7cr ($1.4m) on ‘CSR’,” adds an observer.

“But Rao demanded Rs50cr ($10m). This is nothing but blackmail.

” When contacted by this report, Rao confirmed he would block GSPC’s work in Yanam unless it spends Rs100cr compensation to locals for damage to their livelihood. “Nearly 500,000 fish have died because of drilling and ‘dredging’ by GSPC,” he said.