Srinivasan tells coal ministry to stay away from CBM

Vol 10, PW 24 (05 Apr 07) People & Policy

Everyone knows oil secretary MS Srinivasan is not one to mince his words.

Now even the coal ministry is getting a taste of his no nonsense approach to government. At issue is a simmering row over responsibility for the extraction of Coal Bed Methane.

In India the coal ministry controls mining of coal, but CBM, which is extracted from deeper sections of coalmines, is under the control of the oil ministry. Or is it On 19th March Srinivasan’s counterpart in the coal ministry, HC Gupta, chaired the 7th National Steering Committee meeting of a United Nations project on Coal Bed Methane Recovery and Commercial Utilisation held at the CGO complex in Delhi.

Srinivasan, it seems, was so incensed by Gupta’s transgression of government protocol that on 20th March he wrote him a letter reminding him that, “under government of India Allocation of Business Rules,â€‌ the exploration and production of CBM, including supply, distribution, marketing and pricing is the oil ministry’s responsibility. “As such, this ministry would be in a better position to monitor CBM recovery and its commercial utilisation,â€‌ said Srinivasan.

For good measure Srinivasan also enclosed a copy of the rules! Gupta was told in no uncertain terms that he should inform the United Nations Development Programme that all CBM matters in future be directed to the oil ministry, not the coal ministry. Confusion over which ministry controls what in the coal sector also surfaced during an earlier meeting between the oil and coal ministries chaired by joint secretary exploration AK Jain on 5th February.

Called to discuss the “harmonious exploitation of CBM and coalâ€‌ the meeting amply revealed how relations between the coal and oil ministries in this area are anything but harmonious. It also revealed just how far government policy is trailing actual changes on the ground, both in technology and changes in procedure.

Coal ministry officials seem to want to do something about it; the oil ministry appears content to sit and do nothing.