Modi govt to focus on ending gas mess

  • Anupama Airy, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: May 23, 2014 00:00 IST

Amid courtroom tangles involving the government and natural gas producers in India, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) plans to come out with a new policy on the production and pricing of gas, a key component of which will be the appointment of a minister of state (MoS) to sort out issues plaguing the sector.

“The new government will lay emphasis on gas exploration and production and to indicate its level of seriousness, there is a plan to induct a minister of state (MoS) whose key role will be to look after natural gas issues in India,” a senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) official told HT.

“Gas requires a different treatment and its exploration and production will be our prime focus as we feel that hydrocarbons in India should be led by gas.”

The gas sector in India faces a number of challenges and has not received the needed focus, the official said. "Our government would focus on increasing production of gas from the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands that are understood to be floating on gas," he added.

“The US has turned from a net oil importer to a energy-surplus nation in the past few years ... so if the US can do it, why can’t India replicate it... the BJP think-tank feels that it is natural gas and not oil that will drive India’s energy security goals,” he said.

Seconding it, a senior bureaucrat in the petroleum ministry also said that the government’s foremost task is to create a conducive environment for investors.

“India’s oil and gas sector lacks clarity and credibility especially after the recent controversies... indications suggest that the Modi-led BJP government will not only put the right policies in place but will also aim at reviving the interest and confidence of global investors.

The BJP has already made it clear that it would review the new gas pricing formula – the doubling of natural gas prices from the current $4.2 a unit to $8.2 from April 1.

While the price hike was deferred by the Election Commission for three months, the new government is expected to review the formula even as Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) has slapped an arbitration notice on the government over delays in approving the gas price hike.

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