Reliance gas row disrupts house despite Deora’s defence


New Delhi : The Lok Sabha was Monday disrupted twice by members who alleged that Uttar Pradesh was not being given its share of Reliance Industries’ Krishna-Godavari gas even after Petroleum Minister Murli Deora sought to clarify the government’s position on the matter.

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Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar had to first adjourn the house at 12.20 p.m. for about two hours till two in afternoon. But when the house reassembled, protesting members remained on their feet, and refused to allow the house to function.

Samajwadi Party leader and former chief minister of Uttar Pradesh Mulayam Singh Yadav said minister Deora’s statement was unsatisfactory and he should resign. Yadav then led his party members in a walkout from the house.

Anil Ambani-led Reliance Natural Resources and elder brother Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries are fighting a bitter legal battle over the supply and pricing of gas from the fields off the Andhra Pradesh coast.

Their dispute, brewing for nearly five years now, has arisen out of an agreement between their two companies.

The protests Monday came after Deora issued a statement that the government would do everything possible to protect public interest over the distribution of gas from the fields, being called one of the largest such discoveries in Asia in recent years.

Glossing over the dispute between Mukesh and his brother Anil Ambani, who owns the RNRL, over gas allocation, the minister said: “We have nothing to do with the private dispute of companies or individuals.”

This provoked the opposition benches, as also the Samajwadi Party members, who were on their feet alleging the government was biased against Uttar Pradesh, since the Dadri power project, on the outskirts of New Delhi, was awaiting the gas for feedstock.

Speaker Kumar asked the members to let the house run and then briefly continued with the day’s business, including the introduction of three major legislations — the Companies Bill, Indian Trust (Amendment) Bill, and Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) (Amendment) Bill.

But she was subsequently forced to adjourn the house as Samajwadi Party members trooped into the well raising slogans against the government.

“There has been no discrimination against Uttar Pradesh,” minister Deora said in the statement, adding that the state-run power utility NTPC had been allocated 0.45 million metric standard cubic metre per day (mmscmd) of gas for its Dadri unit.

Further, five out of the 15 existing urea plants that were allocated gas from the Krishna-Godavari basin are located in the northern state.

In the case of Anil Ambani’s company, however, Deora said the case was considered by an empowered group of ministers led by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee. “This plant is neither installed nor functional,” he added.

“The intention of the government is very clear. We will allocate gas to Dadri plant subject to availability and that Dadri plant will be treated on the same footing as other similar plants placed under similar circumstances.”

The fields belonging to Reliance Industries in the Krishna-Godavari basin were producing 31 million units per day since April 1 and within a year, it would go up to 81 million units, the minister told the house.

As per the government’s gas utilisation policy, 15 mmscmd was allocated to existing urea plants, 18 mmscmd to existing power plants, 3 mmscmd to distributors of cooking gas and another 5 mmscmd for cooking gas for cities through pipelines.

Deora said the Bombay High court judgment in May upholding the agreement has “implications on the government’s rights to formulate and implement the gas utilisation policy under the production sharing contract”.

The pact provides for 28 mmscmd to RNRL, 12 mmscmd to NTPC and the remaining to be shared between RIL and RNRL at a ratio of 60:40, he said.

The document also says this formula will be applicable not just to Krishna-Godavari fields, but also to future discoveries and production by Reliance Industries.

“Under the circumstances, it was necessary to file a special leave petition in the Supreme Court and accordingly action has been taken,” said the petroleum minister.