12 February 2014, New Delhi, Sujit Nath
Arvind Kejriwal government’s historic decision to file FIR in the ‘KG Basin Gas Pricing’ case has opened a new chapter in the political history of modern India.
Handing over prime KG Basin to Reliance was a controversial decision from the start as the company was always notorious. When the basin was handed over to Reliance back in April 2000, it was found that it was aware of the work programme of ONGC in advance through a staff officer of Director Exploration, ONGC, Ravi Bastiya. Bastiya had handed over all confidential ONGC work programmes to Reliance six months before the formal bid took place and had joined Reliance soon after it won the bid. Then chairman of ONGC, SL Khosla, had also joined Reliance the very next day after his retirement from the PSU. Not just this, whoever became joint secretary, exploration, petroleum ministry had a nexus with Reliance year after year.
During the former joint secretary of exploration, petroleum ministry, Najeeb Jung’s tenure, who is now L-G of Delhi, the Panna-Mukta oilfield was handed over to Reliance. Later, he also joined Reliance after taking voluntary retirement from service. Jung went abroad as a fellow of Observer Research Foundation (ORF). Former joint secretary of exploration, Sanjay Joshi, also quit service and joined Reliance-funded ORF in January 2007. Both of them should not have been allowed to join the company as they had handled sensitive files of Reliance and there was a clear case of conflict of interest. But the top bosses were silent on this issue.
Even during the BJP rule, Mohan Guruswamy, a former advisor to finance minister Yashwant Sinha, became the visiting fellow of ORF. Sameer Saran, who is currently the vice-president of ORF, was in charge of Reliance corporate communication department few years ago and was involved in planting stories to different newspapers and television channels in favour of justifying gas price. Several cases were registered with CBI but never followed up. All thanks to a few senior officials of the CBI, who Reliance took care of during their service and after retirement. A former director of CBI’s house in Noida was maintained by Reliance.
A classic case in point was former director general of hydro-carbon VK Sibal whose daughter was provided a flat by Reliance in Mumbai whose rent per month was shown to be only Rs 3000 but the maintenance was Rs 5000! CBI sleuths had enough evidence as clear case of corruption when they found the owner of the flat was one of the directors in Reliance. But the files relating to the case are gathering dust. Even Ravi Bastiya, who should have been prosecuted for treachery and forgery for handing over secret documents to Reliance, was awarded Padma Shri by the UPA.