Work grinds to a halt at Board-less PNGRB

Vol 24, PW 13 (20 May 21) People & Policy

At long last, the government has scheduled interviews to find two new members and a new chairman at the PNGRB to replace DK Sarraf.

But that's scant comfort to gas retailers and pipeline companies frustrated by the PNGRB's inability to function because it doesn't have a fully functioning Board. With its dismal track record filling vacancies at the regulator, it is easy to see why companies are angry with the government.

Especially over the fate of strategic pipeline projects awaiting approval. And their anxiety will only grow if the PNGRB remains defunct, for whatever reason.

In particular, they point to oil minister Dharmendra Pradhan's self-professed determination to increase the share of gas in India's energy mix from 6.2% to 15% by 2030. "If Pradhan is interested in achieving the 15% mark," we hear, "the first thing he should do is to fill up all the vacancies (at the PNGRB)."

Since December 3 (2020), the day chairman DK Sarraf retired, Satpal Garg is the lone member (commercial and monitoring) at the World Trade Centre office in Delhi. "Four vacant offices keep him (Garg) company!" snipes a regular PNGRB visitor.

But even Garg, presently quarantining at home, retires in two months on August 14 (2021). For the past three years, Garg also holds additional responsibility as member monitoring, vacant since PK Bishnoi retired on July 1 (2016).

Also empty is the member legal seat since SS Chahar retired on March 19 (2020). Before that, member infrastructure Satchidananda Rath retired on May 18 (2020).

His post is also vacant. Desperate to secure approvals for important pipeline projects, GAIL and GSPL are worried.

"They (the PNGRB) do all the paperwork and hold meetings," says a GAIL source. "But because the Board (members and chairman) is missing, the regulator can't decide anything."