Reliance talk greets Moily on Day 1

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on October 29, 2012 Published on October 29, 2012

Veerappa Moily, Minister for Petroleum and Natural Gas, assuming office on Monday. -- Ramesh Sharma

Raising per capita consumption of petro products top priority

Little would M. Veerappa Moily have imagined that on his first day as Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas he would be faced with another saga — oil sector and Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Industries Ltd.

The man who has penned a translation of the epic Ramayana found questions being raised on his appointment and the shifting out of S. Jaipal Reddy. Inferences were being drawn that Reddy’s shift had happened due to corporate pressure.

Corridor whispers are that Reddy was shifted out for slow decision making and being too cautious which had had a negative impact on the country’s hydrocarbons business.

But observers of the sector feel Reddy was just following what his predecessor was doing.

What also added fuel to the speculation was the positive market sentiment with stocks of upstream oil companies rising; Reliance Industries stock closed at Rs 811.20, up 1.53 per cent on the BSE on Monday.

‘Challenging Ministry’

However, veteran Moily handled the situation with tact. “It is a challenging Ministry. I will deal with issues cautiously,” he said soon after taking charge and meeting

Outlining his priorities, Moily said he would work towards providing energy security.

“Bridging the gap in per capita consumption of petroleum products between the global average and bringing it up to a decent level of around six barrels/person/year from the present level of three barrels is a huge task,” he added.

Moily said that his priorities include intensifying the pace of domestic exploration and production of crude oil and natural gas through new policy initiatives.

He emphasised that domestic oil companies will be encouraged to aggressively acquire assets abroad.

Having done his homework well, Moily called for expediting development of and ensuring availability of petroleum products — diesel, PDS kerosene and domestic LPG — at reasonable prices.

He said that efforts will be expedited in channelising subsidy to the targeted beneficiaries (Direct Cash Transfer).

Taking up the compensation issue with the Finance Ministry is high on his agenda.

Media glare is not something new for S. Jaipal Reddy who, on the face of it, is one of the few Cabinet Ministers seen doing a climb down from his earlier position in UPA-II Government after Sunday's reshuffle.

Talk in the corridors of power suggests that Reddy is upset with the shift to Science and Technology and Earth Sciences Ministry.

No positions on portfolios: Reddy

However, Reddy said he does not regret his shifting. “I take ideological positions. I don’t take positions on portfolios,” he said.

Asked if his stand on KG Basin (Reliance operated east coast gas block) has resulted in his shifting, he said he followed the Government’s position on KG Basin.

“KG Basin is a natural resource, it’s a national resource,” he said and added that the Government’s policy was based on the Constitution.

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Published on October 29, 2012
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