Narendra Modi on collision course with PNGRB

Vol 20, PW 7 (15 Dec 16) People & Policy

At last we now know why the oil ministry is acting in a way that has some accusing it of reducing the PNGRB to irrelevance.

Narendra Modi it seems wants to bypass the PNGRB and push through his ambitious Urja Ganga gas project that will see a pipeline grid and retail networks set up in northern India through GAIL. On October 25 the PNGRB sent a three-page letter to the ministry, backed up by eight pages of legal opinion, objecting to the fact it is being asked to rubber-stamp GAIL's authorisation to execute Urja Ganga.

A day earlier, on October 24, Modi unveiled the Rs51,000cr ($7.6bn) project under which he wants GAIL to lay a pipeline from Jagdishpur in Uttar Pradesh to Dhamra in Orissa passing through Haldia in West Bengal and Bokaro in Jharkhand and also set up gas networks in seven cities including ancient Hindu holy city Varanasi: the PM's constituency. Earlier on October 18 the ministry sought the PNGRB's views within seven days on its plans to give "policy directives" under Section 42 of the PNGRB Act, 2006 to get the project moving at the earliest.

But even though the gas regulator has been left without a chief for over a year it did not merely crumble but firmly pointed out that Section 42 cannot be used to "nullify" its statutory powers under the Act, conferred by parliament.