Slow but steady introduction of open acreage in India

Vol 9, PW 22 (23 Feb 06) People & Policy

India is steadily moving towards an open acreage licensing policy, but dont expect it to happen overnight.

NELP-VI will be a curtain raiser for the introduction of an open acreage policy, a senior DGH source tells us. We will make a formal announcement about the introduction of an open acreage policy during the roadshows.

Still unclear is the exact model India will follow. Says Khan of LMK Resources: It makes a lot of sense to have a system like ours when you have six or more operators working in a country.

With an open acreage system you can apply for a particular block and within a certain stipulated time the government has to decide. In Pakistan the fate of the block is decided in 90 days.

Within 90 days everything is over. Khan adds that an open acreage system and regular licensing rounds are not mutually exclusive.

In our system you can have parallel bidding rounds, he says. Whenever we have an accumulation of 10, 12 or 15 blocks we launch a bidding round.

Last year we had a licensing round and opened data rooms in Calgary and London. Often we offer discounts of up to 20% to companies that buy multiple data packets for different blocks.

Companies get very excited about that. Attractive as it sounds, DGH officials caution operators not to expect the introduction of an open average system on the Pakistani model overnight.

Countries like Pakistan, China and Sudan have a centralised power system, we hear. We live in a democracy and cant work like that, even if we try.

People complain we dont take decisions fast enough but we have to involve everybody in our decision-making process. We cant force our decisions on anyone.

In other countries decisions are taken on the basis of who is the leader at the time. You cant expect us to be a democracy and then also operate like China or Pakistan.

Here, every politician, bureaucrat and journalist has a say. We are not like Pakistan or China.

In these countries the press cant criticise. In our country, I can be hauled before parliament and made to account for what I have done.