Unhappy over the continued delay in giving it a bigger role in framing the policies for awarding oil and gas blocks and exploration and production (E&P) activities in the country, the Planning Commission has written to the Union Petroleum and Natural Gas Ministry to include representatives of the planning body in the Empowered Committee of Secretaries (ECS), headed by the Petroleum Secretary, and also hold wider inter-Ministerial consultations before finalising any policy relating to the hydrocarbon industry.

The Planning Commission has in the past expressed its resentment over the failure of the Petroleum Ministry to act on its suggestion for its inclusion in the ECS. It had emphasised on the need for it to be a part of the ECS mechanism, which it said, has a major role in deciding the matters related to the New Exploration Licensing Policy (NELP), inter-alia, consideration of bid evaluation criteria, document negotiations with bidders and making recommendation to the Cabinet Committee of Economic Affairs (CCEA) on awarding of oil and gas blocks.

In a letter to Petroleum Secretary Vivek Rae, Secretary Planning Commission Sindhushree Khullar stated that the Planning Commission does not get an opportunity to offer its comments through the ECS mechanism. “We have to present our views on the ‘final note’ of CCEA at the meeting through the Deputy Chairman. You will agree that consultations at the stage of ECS would enrich the content of the policy,” Ms. Khullar wrote.

The letter states that the issue regarding NELP contracts have technical, contractual and financial implications, which ought to be deliberated with related Ministries before the Cabinet proposals are firmed up. “We notice that several proposals are being recommended directly for consideration of the Cabinet without any consultation at the level of ECS. You may like to consider holding detailed deliberations at the official level before posing policy issues for consideration of the Cabinet/CCEA. I would urge you to include Planning Commission in the ECS under your chairmanship in addition to Secretaries in the Ministries of Finance and Law,” the letter concludes.

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