HPCL lavishes $45,000 in gifts and perks to MPs

Vol 14, PW 20 (07 Apr 11) People & Policy

Titan watches, shawls, countless taxi and restaurant bills, as well as extended stays in the country’s finest hotels.

These are the perks enjoyed by some of India’s MPs, courtesy Hindustan Petroleum, the country’s second largest state-owned refiner. PETROWATCH learns HPCL last year spent Rs21.6 lakhs ($45,000) on the MPs, most of them members of the influential Standing Committee on Petroleum & Natural Gas.

All the expenses, seen by this report on a detailed HPCL spreadsheet, are meticulously documented, and apparently routine. Like on June 30 last year, when HPCL cleared a bill of Rs5.38 lakhs ($11,700) to the Taj hotel in Mumbai for visiting Standing Committee members.

Or for that matter, on July 5 last year, when HPCL again paid Rs3.74 lakhs ($8100) to the Taj to cover the stay of ‘Hon’ble MPs and Govt. Officials.

’ Delhi’s five-star Ashok hotel also gets a mention, when on April 24 last year HPCL released Rs1.49 lakh ($3200) to pay for parliamentary hospitality. Visits to the Kerala backwaters likewise figure in the name of parliamentary democracy.

On May 24, HPCL paid a Rs2 lakh ($4300) demand draft (transaction number: 35323310) to an unidentified ‘GM Kerala’ to spend on parliamentary committee hospitality. Strangely, HPCL insiders tell us no ‘GM Kerala’ position exists within the company.

The list goes on, from the sublime to the ridiculous, like a Rs12,280 ($270) payment on June 14 last year to the distinctly non-political sounding Mangalore-based Stanley Studio & Video and Rs20,400 ($440) to the equally non-political Elite Arts, both on behalf of undisclosed Standing Committee MPs. Small amounts they might be, but they go some way in explaining why India’s politicians and bureaucrats are loathe to privatise the state-owned oil behemoths they control.