Dear Dr Manmohan Singh ji,
It has come to my notice that the DGH, Shri R N Choubey, has been transferred prematurely and put on compulsory wait, on the recommendation of the Petroleum Minister by you. I had raised this issue in my letter dated 4/10/2013, wherein I had voiced the apprehension that a sinister move was afoot to replace Mr Choubey with a pliable person since he had taken an independent view in the matter of relinquishment and arbitration in the KG-D6 block and had refu
sed to tow the line of the Petroleum Minister and RIL. My apprehensions have been confirmed by the premature transfer of Mr Choubey.
More documents relating to the dubious orders of the Petroleum Minister in the matter of relinquishment and its opposition by the DGH have come to light. Based on the report of the DGH to relinquish an area of 6497 sq km, the Joint Secretary ( Exploration) and the Petroleum Secretary made a clear recommendation that relinquishment of this area be done. The Petroleum Secretary’s note dated 30/8/2013 ( enclosed herewith) categorically states that:
“The contractor has not been willing to undertake DST ( till May 2013) well after expiry of timelines. Keeping in view the facts of the case the area of 6496.88 sq km be excluded from the contract area of 7645 sq km with immediate effect. This area may be repackaged and proposed for auction under NELP X”
To this note the Petroleum Minister ordered on 7/9/2013 that a presentation be made before him by RIL since “this is a complex issue wherein lot of intricate interpretations of the PSC are involved.” After the presentation was made by RIL the file was again submitted by the officials without any change in their proposal. The Petroleum Minister passed a detailed order on 9/10/2013 in which he rejected the proposal of relinquishment in respect of D29, D30 and D31 discoveries which have reserves of 345 bcf valued at $2.9 billion ( Rs.18,000 crore)on the ground that “there has been a delay on part of the DGH in reviewing the Declaration of Commerciality and taking a categorical stand that the Contractor must conduct DST”. How the Minister has come to such a conclusion, when all his senior officials have opined that delay is only on part of RIL, is of course not difficult to surmise!
Before the relinquishment order was issued ( for the other discoveries) the Petroleum Secretary again asked the DGH to vet the order. The DGH recorded his views on 28/10/2013 stating that:
“As far as the discoveries D29, D30, D31 are concerned the DGH views are well documented to the effect that the Contractor has carried out only MDT, which does not measure the flow at the surface which is a contractual requirement.”
Not only did Shri Choubey record his views before the arbitrary decision was taken by the Minister, he also reiterated it after the decision. Needless to add, the Petroleum Minister fears that with such independent minded bureaucrats he will be exposed in his attempt to favour Reliance.
I would also like to bring out one more recent instance ( in addition to the earlier ones) wherein Shri Choubey had taken a view different from the Petroleum Minister. You are aware that the Kelkar Committee constituted by the Petroleum Minister has given a recommendation for continuation of the PSC model for the oil exploration and production contracts. This is at complete variance with the recommendations of the CAG and also the Rangarajan Committee which have both recommended a tax royalty regime. Shri Choubey, who was the member secretary to the Kelkar committee, gave a strong dissent note to this recommendation. I am enclosing the dissent note for your perusal. The relevant portion is quoted below:
” It is thus clear that it is not within the mandate of the committee to give its recommendations about the appropriate E&P contract because that work has already been done by the Rangarajan Committee after a very elaborate exercise involving all the stakeholders.
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Many of the data, graphs and analyses and conclusions in chapter 2 have been simply presented as findings without the writer indicating the source or methodology, nor have they been discussed.
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Under the circumstances I dissociate myself from the whole chapter 2 of the report.”
It should be noted that the member secretary, who is also the technical arm of the Ministry, has given a categorical dissent that the Kelkar Committee has exceeded its brief. I would again remind you that I had raised this issue in my letter dated 10/6/2013, wherein I had stated that Kelkar Committee was a mere eyewash to carry out the bidding of the Petroleum Minister. And when an upright senior bureaucrat has refused to be bulldozed by the unscrupulous Minister, he has been unceremoniously removed. In fact to add insult to injury, he has been put on compulsory wait and has not been given any posting. This corrupt government is trying to intimidate honest officers, who have the courage to stand by their convictions, by these crude tactics.
I would like to remind you that Shri Choubey was appointed for a three year term in June 2012 by you on the recommendation of the previous Petroleum Minister. The DGH is handling all the critical issues in the Reliance matter, including the Arbitration and disallowance of $ 2.5 billion dollars of cost recovery due to shortfall in production. Transferring an upright officer and replacing him with a pliable one, is another attempt of the Petroleum Minister to dole out largesse to Reliance. This premature transfer is also against the various Supreme Court orders which have advocated tenures for bureaucrats and come down heavily on arbitrary transfers. I would also like to remind you that the Supreme Court ordered the reversal of transfers of officers in the Coalgate scandal. In such circumstances I would earnestly request you to keep the transfer of Shri Choubey as the DGH in abeyance and allow him to complete his tenure.
With kind regards,