Citizens' Issues
UPA government's dilemma on new gas price

If the UPA government announces new gas pricing while in power, but after 12th May, they will be damned and if they don't, they will still be damned!  The Manmohan Singh government is most likely  handover this responsibility to new government

The general election process will be completed, technically, when the polling ends on 12th May, but final results will be announced only by 16th May.  However, in line with the directives issued by the Election Commission and to maintain the sanctity of model code of conduct, the new pricing formula for gas supplies from Krishna-Godavari Basin (KG) D6 block was postponed till the polling completion.  It should automatically follow that the new price applicable will be announced on 13th May by the Government.

Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) has appealed to the Oil Ministry that the new price, expected to be about $8.34 per million metric British thermal unit (mmBtu)  be announced retroactively applicable for supplies effected from 1 April 2014, since the production sharing contract (PSC) expired on 31st March.

It may be recalled that for the previous five years ending on 31st March the price of gas from KG-D6 was fixed at $4.205 per mmBtu. Currently, Reliance supplies gas to sixteen fertilizer units, details of which were recently covered in Moneylife. KG-D6, which at one time produced some 60 million cubic metres a day has now a trickling supply of only 13 mmBtu for the above units. Fall in production has been attributed to natural or geographical surprise, experienced by Reliance, which has also been noticed in many other countries.

Although the old price of $4.205 per mmBtu expired as on 31st March, in order not to disrupt supplies on the ground of non-availability of price factor, Reliance has been supplying gas to the fertilizer units, maintaining a stand that whenever the new price is fixed by the Government, it will be applicable, retroactively, from 1st April. In fact, at one time, Reliance had sought to obtain additional Letters of Credit for the "expected" price differential but the fertilizer firms had declined to do so. Fresh contracts between Reliance and the Fertilizer units have not been signed, as a
sequel, and is likely once the price is fixed by the government.

At the moment 23 million tonnes of Urea is produced in the country and it is reported that the overall impact of every dollar increase in price (of gas) will be Rs3,155 crore annually.

In the meantime, the Director General of Hydrocarbons (DGH) had sought to take away, from Reliance, three gas finds, said to hold an estimated reserves of 345 billion cubic feet of recoverable gas, as these were discovered after the expiry of timelines. DGH had stated that Reliance had failed to prove their commercial ability by not conducting the prescribed tests.  However, Oil Ministry is already moving the Cabinet to allow Reliance to retain these finds, estimated to be worth 1.45 billion in the eastern offshore of KG D6 block. This sort of bureaucratic clerical attitude must change and look at the broader perspective of how such actions will affect the country. The country needs the gas to move forward.

The issue is not favourable attitude shown to Mukesh Ambani or Reliance by the current government but the issue has been in "process" much before the announcement of election. The present government has every right to decide the issue on their own or leave it to the incoming new government.

Time is the essence of contract, and it would be in the interest of the nation to move forward on all matters, bearing in mind what is good for the country and its people.

(AK Ramdas has worked with the Engineering Export Promotion Council of the ministry of commerce. He was also associated with various committees of the Council. His international career took him to places like Beirut, Kuwait and Dubai at a time when these were small trading outposts; and later to the US.)


India puts more pressure on Switzerland to share bank info

Switzerland had refused to share information about the accounts mentioned in the so-called ‘HSBC list’ which India had received from France through a bilateral treaty

India has strongly objected to Switzerland’s denial of information about the account details of certain Indians at HSBC’s Swiss bank branches, in whose cases “incriminating evidence of tax evasion” have been found in the country.


In a strongly-worded letter to his Swiss counterpart, Finance Minister P Chidambaram has also warned that an effective exchange of tax-related information was 'extremely important' for economic co-operation between the two countries and Switzerland must honour its 'rights and duties' agreed to in their bilateral Direct Tax Avoidance Convention (DTAC).


This is Chidambaram’s third letter to Swiss Finance Minister Eveline Widmer Schlumpf within four months on this matter and he again reiterated that India would continue to take a position at the global forum about Switzerland lacking legal and regulatory framework for an effective exchange of information.


Chidambaram also said that the interpretation made by Switzerland that it cannot share information as per India’s request was not in accordance with international standards.


Switzerland communicated its decision against sharing the information through a letter dated 7th April to Chidambaram, pursuant to which India has now stepped up its pressure on the European nation, which has been long perceived as a major safe haven for alleged black money stashed by Indians and other foreign nationals due to its strong banking secrecy laws.


Under global pressure, Switzerland has agreed to ease its banking secrecy laws in recent years and it also signed a revised tax treaty with India in 2011 to facilitate greater flow of information about alleged black money.


However, it has refused to share information with India about the accounts mentioned in the so-called ‘HSBC list’ which India had received from France through a bilateral treaty.


However, it has been widely reported that France had received that list after data was stolen by a disgruntled HSBC employee in 2011 and those names eventually found their way to tax authorities across the world including India.


Saradha investors block trains in West Bengal

Investors were protesting as they failed to get money following the Saradha scam

Hundreds of people who had invested in Saradha and suffered due to the scam, on Friday blocked rail traffic in Sealdah rail section in West Bengal's North 24 Parganas district.


Picketeers blocked rail traffic at several places in the Sealdah-Ranaghat, Sealdah-Bongaon and Sealdah-Barasat section for several hours.


Rail traffic was disrupted before the police cleared the lines following which train movement resumed, superintendent of rail police, Sealdah, Utpal Laskar said.


The investors were protesting as they failed to get money following the scam.


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