Petroleum minister M Veerappa Moily overruled his ministry’s top bureaucrat while divesting key portfolio of gas pricing from joint secretary Aramane Giridhar and held Giridhar responsible for leak of sensitive papers from the ministry.
On August 12, petroleum secretary Vivek Rae requested Moily to reconsider his unilateral decision to take away gas pricing from Giridhar’s Exploration wing and shift it to International Cooperation division saying that the incumbent would not have “domain expertise” to handle it. Moreover, he wrote, the new gas pricing regime approved by the Centre to increase the price of natural gas from $4.2 per million British thermal unit to $8.4 from April 2014 was “still under examination”. He was, of course, referring to Supreme Court’s July 29 notice to the Centre, Reliance Industries Ltd and Moily on a PIL filed by CPI MP Gurudas Dasgupta who alleged that no due diligence was done while raising the gas price. The apex court has posted the matter for further hearing to September 6.
Sources said the court hearing is the major reason for Moily’s flutter as well as his resolve to cast aside Rae’s advice on August 12 saying he was aware of the capability of the incumbent and was confident that he would handle gas pricing in the shortest possible time. He further justified his August 6 notings by putting on record that Giridhar was responsible for document leakages from the ministry. Giridhar, a 1988-batch IAS officer of the Andhra Pradesh cadre, was appointed by Moily’s predecessor S Jaipal Reddy.
Sources confirmed that the portfolio transfers were not executed until late today.
However, Moily’s diktat to Rae is to issue orders as per his directions where, besides gas pricing, charge of overseas asset acquisitions, control over ONGC Videsh Ltd and policy making on coal-based methane (CBM) and shale gas were to be shifted from Exploration to International Cooperation (IC). Moily’s August 6 note also directed Rae to shift Petroleum Conservation Research Association and all matters related to renewable energy such as bio-fuel and ethanol blending in petrol taken out from joint secretary (Marketing) to be handed to joint secretary (Refineries).
Rae, who was not consulted by Moily, also opposed shifting of CBM and shale gas to IC saying that the two were driven by production sharing contracts that applied to exploration. The petroleum secretary also noted that ethanol blending was traditionally a marketing subject as it was a post refining exercise and