Pradhan: Rosneft’s acquisition of Essar will benefit India and Russia

Neelu Vyas

Rajya Sabha TV’s Neely Vyas interviews Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan.

Days after Russian oil giant Rosneft signed a USD 13 billion deal with Essar Group, petroleum minister Dharmendra Pradhan has praised the deal.

In an exclusive interview to Rajya Sabha TV, Pradhan said that the deal will not only help both India and Russia to boost its oil and gas economy, but also take the retail network also to newer heights.

While elaborating on the new hydrocarbon policy of the NDA government, Pradhan stressed that oil companies will be free to take their decision on pricing without any intervention from the government.

He targeted the UPA govt for non-transparency and said that the new reforms will bring in more investment through a single licence regime and will increase the production of oil and gas.

Pradhan even mentioned that India lacks a coherent link between the policy makers, industry and the institutes. Therefore, he said NDA government was focussing on data collection, interpretation and surveys.

The minister also called Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojna a game changer.

Here are a few edited excerpts from the interview:

India’s oil shopping list mostly includes Iraq, Saudi Arabia, South America. How does the Rosneft deal with Russia translate for India and Russia?

India ranks third in consuming hydrocarbon energy. Globally India imports energy in large quantity. Hydrocarbon from West Asia is a challenge for India. India has invested USD 18 billion in Russian hydrocarbon industry and India is planning to build a direct pipeline from Russia. This deal is beneficial for both India and Russia. Oil companies are free to take decision on pricing. Qualitative competition from government or private companies gives choices to consumers. Essar is now involved into retail marketing by singing the Rosneft deal.

What is the new hydrocarbon policy all about? 

Investment is possible in oil sector in the form of new reforms brought by PM Modi. India needs a new energy model. India must learn to conserve resources for the future. Government adopted a revenue sharing model to benefit the oil & gas sector. The new policy is a single license system – more transparent and with minimal government intervention.

Government has been embroiled in disputes related to gas pricing. The matter is in court. Will the new policy prevent disputes like these? 

Yes, the new policy is very transparent. Companies will have freedom on pricing and marketing, both. Therefore there is no question of disputes. Earlier, a system was not in place.

Two years ago you said ONGC and oil production is very low. Are you in a position after two years to say that the situation has improved? 

I am not satisfied with oil production, but things will improve from now on. With the new policy in palce, I am confident that India under the NDA government will do wonders. Government is funding 5000 crore to maintain & construct new pipelines.

Why is there no stress on Research and Development? You have just one petrochemical university in Dehradun. How will you match up with the global standards when you don’t have a proper system? 

Lack of data collection, survey, and interpretation of data for last 25 years is a problem. India lacks a coherent link between policy maker, industry & institute. There is no dearth of institutions in oil & gas sector. Oil & gas sector is giving 50% of their revenue to the Indian exchequer. The government is now investing Rs 5000 crore in data acquisition.

Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojna – why do you call it a game changer?

Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana has been introduced for the first time for poor people. It’s a game changer because the poorest of the poor will be empowered. The scheme will give heath, time, financial and social empowerment to poor women.

But the opposition calls the Ujjwala scheme a political strategy not a social welfare scheme?

What has stopped the opposition from making it their own welfare scheme. Congress ruled for sixty years, why couldn’t they make LPG a household name. It’s crude on their part to target our government for welfare measures like these.

Coming to the prices of diesel and petrol – despite crude oil prices being low, you have not been able to pass the benefits on to the consumers? 

Government cannot give all powers to the consumer – that’ll create inflation. We will benefit the consumers through other welfare schemes. We have passed on 50 percent of the benefit to the consumers. I have not hidden anything – everything has been laid before the Parliament.

BJD leaders say BJP in Odisha is trying to appropriate the legacy of Biju Patnaik?

A national personality does not belong to any party or family. As an Oriya I am proud of Biju Patnaik.

Sarbananda Sonowal went to Assam as chief minister, are you planning to leave petroleum ministry and become Odisha chief minister some day? 

I don’t know who will be the CM Candidate of Odisha, I am just a loyal soldier of the party.