Strongly refuting charges of transferring an officer for being tough on Reliance Industries, Oil Minister M. Veerappa Moily on Tuesday said he will resign if even an iota of evidence was produced against him.
Mr. Moily said that Giridhar Aramane, the Joint Secretary in his Ministry, has not been transferred as is being alleged by CPI leader Gurudas Dasgupta.
Mr. Aramane, 50, a 1988-batch IAS officer of the Andhra Pradesh cadre who was appointed Joint Secretary Exploration by Mr. Moily’s predecessor S. Jaipal Reddy, will continue in the same capacity and only some of his responsibilities like unconventional resources and gas pricing, have been shifted to another Joint Secretary, he said.
With the government already taking a decision on how all domestically produced gas will be priced from April 2014 to 2019, only the implementation remains and not much work is left on the pricing front. Exploration division, where RIL has faced most hurdles in getting clearances, will continue to remain with Mr. Aramane, he added.
“I am telling you again and again, our conscience is very clear. We have not taken any decision to respond to anybody’s needs. (If there is) even an iota of evidence, let them show, I will not be there the next day in this seat”, Mr. Moily said responding to charges levelled by Mr. Dasgupta.
The changes being made are part of work distribution so as to lessen burden of overworked employees, he said. “Even after nine months (in Oil Ministry) I have not changed even a director. That (allegation of Joint Secretary being transferred) is not correct. It is redistribution of work.”
“We are prepared to face anybody... but this kind of reckless allegation, personal allegation will not augur well for a respected member”, he said without naming Mr. Dasgupta.
Mr. Moily questioned how Mr. Dasgupta was able to lay his hand on Cabinet notes on gas pricing even before they go to the Cabinet or his notes before they become an order.
Mr. Moily said the very same Joint Secretary, for whom Dasgupta had taken up cudgels for, and the DGH had rejected proposals for developing gas fields. These were turned down saying gas production at current rate of USD 4.2 per unit was not viable.
“The very same Joint Secretary, very same Director General (of Hydrocarbons or DGH) rejected (field development plans) saying that USD 4.2 is not commercial viable (price)... the entire exploration process has now come to a grinding halt (in absence of remunerative prices)", he said.
The government in late June decided to price all domestically produced gas at an average price of imported LNG and international hub rates. Price, according to this formula, would double to $ 8.4 per million British thermal unit when implemented in April 2014.
The decision was criticised by Mr. Dasgupta who said it was to benefit RIL, whose KG-D6 gas field has seen output plummet to under 14 million standard cubic metres per day.
The country had resources which can be produced at a price higher than current rates and asked if it was in the nation’s interest to keep paying foreigners three times the rates for imports.
Mr. Moily said a day after Cabinet decision to raise prices, China announced a gas price of $ 9 per mmBtu.
"Some small shuffling of team has been done. Exploration is with him (Aramane), we have not not taken away (exploration) from him", Mr. Moily said.
Stating that he was willing to put up on website all decisions and orders taken by his ministry, the Oil Minister said one could rightfully seek access to file notings etc., through RTI.
“Instead of resorting to right legal method, you steal the documents, you rob the documents from government custody. We could have sued but we are not doing so because we are not small", he said. "This is not in the interest of the nation. This speaks about the integrity of the person who speaks using leaked documents."
Moily said he would not be deterred by such allegations and would continue to "march" towards his goal of India becoming self-sufficient in energy needs. "Despite all this, I will march ahead in my journey to make India energy independent. Nothing will stop us."