Pradhan reduces PNGRB regulator to irrelevance

Vol 20, PW 4 (03 Nov 16) People & Policy

Dharmendra Pradhan is accused of systematically undermining the PNGRB to the point where it will cease to have relevance.

For over a year the gas regulator is without a chief after chairman S. Krishnan retired on August 31, 2015 and nobody at the ministry is interested in replacing him.

PK Bishnoi, one of four Members, retired on July 1, 2016 leaving only three on the Board: KK Jha appointed in February 2012, Subhash Chandra Batra appointed in August 2013 and Basudev Mohanty, appointed in January 2014. Member 'legal' Batra retires on December 17, 2016 after which the PNGRB can no longer hold meetings as it won't have the minimum three Members prescribed under the PNGRB Act, 2006.

"Already the meetings are easygoing," says one amused observer, "almost like a picnic!" Once KK Jha retires on January 3, 2017 only Mohanty will be left as lone Member of a toothless PNGRB. The PNGRB's last Member secretary Upamanyu Chatterjee, who attended meetings until he moved out in March (2016) was replaced in July 2016 by (Ms)Vandana Sharma, a secretary.

Last month (October) the PNGRB was humiliated when Narendra Modi held a ceremony to mark the start of CGD work in Varanasi where GAIL has been directed by the ministry to begin CGD operations in a flagrant breach of the PNGRB Act which clearly states that licences must be awarded by PNGRB and not gifted arbitrarily by government.