GAIL plans PR blitzkrieg for Kochi pipeline

Vol 20, PW 16 (04 May 17) Midstream & Downstream

Kerala is India's most literate state and its people hard to fool - enough to explain why they're always protesting! If GAIL has any hope of executing plans to lay a Kochi R-LNG evacuation pipeline it needs to Photoshop its public image, especially among vocal rubber and cashew-nut farmers who view it with suspicion.

To that end GAIL invited offers by April 24 to hire a PR firm with a clear remit: create a favourable environment for it to successfully lay the 1104-km pipeline from Kochi to Bangalore, passing through Kootanad and Mangalore. Whoever wins must ensure newspapers and TV channels regularly interview senior GAIL management and develop a media strategy, organise press conferences and draft press releases.

"We have failed to convincingly put across our side of the story," a GAIL source tells us. "Newspapers and television channels only carry the other perspective creating a lot of anti-pipeline sentiment." As a result farmers in Kerala's Thrissur, Palakkad, Malapurram, Kozhikode, Kannur and Kasaragod districts are not cooperating.

A meeting between GAIL chairman BC Tripathi, Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan and chief secretary SM Vijayanand on February 14 yielded no results. A media campaign for a single pipeline is unusual but the stakes are high.

GAIL must complete the pipeline by February 2019 or risk annoying both the oil ministry and PNGRB.

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