Sahai's full in-tray when he joins PNGRB

Vol 24, PW 16 (01 Jul 21) People & Policy

When Sanjeev Sahai takes charge as the next PNGRB chairman, he can look forward to an inbox full of complaints from gas retail companies demanding work extensions because of the pandemic.

"This will be the first major challenge before the new PNGRB chairman and members," says a gas sector source. After interviews on June 2 (2021), a government search panel recommended former bureaucrat Sahai for PNGRB chairman and a day later, on June 3, recommended lawyer AK Pande for member legal.

At present, the gas regulator is almost defunct with just one member, Satpal Garg. Also recommended were Gajendra Singh and Ajay Kumar as members after interviews on October 28 (2020), but they are yet to be formally appointed.

Gas sector sources say the second Covid-19 wave has been worse than the first. "Broadly, the second wave began mid-April and peaked in early May, but there was no uniform government of India lockdown (unlike during the 2020 first wave)," says a CGD operator.

"Each state was announcing its lockdown, making things difficult and confusing." He adds governments avoided the word 'lockdown' with the negative connotations it acquired during the first wave.

Instead, they used words like 'curfew', 'restrictions', and 'containment.' But the effect was a total lockdown. "Within each state, local authorities were imposing restrictions independently, and this led to CGD work disruption," adds another gas sector source.

States have been easing restrictions since June 21. But a gas retailer with a pan-India presence says this has not been uniform across the country or even within states, making it challenging to transport workers and materials.

"States like Kerala and Goa still have strict restrictions," he adds. CGD operators want the PNGRB to grant Force Majeure or exemption from work programme commitments from April 15 to June 15, as well as additional exemptions for local restrictions, the monsoon season and other obstacles.

"Our materials and equipment supply chains and the supply of workers is yet to normalise," we hear.