Friday, April 29, 2016

Gujarat State Petroleum Corporation

Jairam Ramesh has written a couple of revealing articles in The Hindu on GSPC, an undertaking of the Government of Gujarat. He has pointed out that Narendra Modi as the state's Chief Minister had repeatedly claimed that the company had identified huge oil reserves in Krishna-Godavari (KG) Basin, a claim that  has not materialised so far. The author claims, perhaps not incredibly, that Modi's cronies have gained inappropriately from the contracts they procured from GSPC. The company's bank borrowings amount to nearly Rs.20,000 crore and its earnings are not enough even to make interest payment on the loans. (Company's annual reports for the past five years are not on the net and therefore Ramesh's assertions could not be verified. But he has quoted from CAG's findings and therefore is reliable.)

The charges are serious and need response from the Gujarat government or the company. Of course the company has been existing from 1979. This is an integrated petroleum company with many subsidiaries and associates. Subsidiaries include Gujarat State Petronet Ltd., GSPC Gas Company Ltd., GSPC Pipavav Power Co. Ltd., etc.

GSPC is in the process of expanding its transmission and distribution activity and curtailing exploration and production activity. Hits and misses punctuate the life of any oil exploration company. But sustained claims in the absence of any luck for a long time are indicative of either gullibility or downright chicanery. Modi can answer, but would he?

Jairam Ramesh has sarcastically pointed out that a current Deputy Governor of RBI (though not identified, it is Urjit Patel, a distinguished theorist) was a Director in the Board of GSPC from 2006 to 2013. Such a long association with the company obligates a response from him too. Are the bank loans for Rs.20,000  crore already classified as NPA? If not, what is the justification? On an issue as serious as this, reticence would only prove that something is seriously amiss.

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