Dharmendra Pradhan-II: Did he fail in his primary job?
The last month saw a flurry of activity in the petroleum ministry. A lot got done 850% of the stake in Ratnagiri refinery has been sold. And that is no mean achievement given that India had not been able to woo the Gulf countries to take a stake in an Indian refinery for the past few decades. 8A PPP format for strategic reserves is another big step forward and so was the successful partnership for filling up one underground cavern with foreign-owned crude oil. 8Among the other achievements is the successful conclusion of discovered rounds and OLAP, though critics can argue that foreign companies ignored these rounds altogether unlike in the past. CGD bidding is expected to cover a large swathe of India. 8Over the last few years, the government has also been successful in extracting political capital out of its LPG outreach scheme though its impact and reach are still being debated. 8Despite huge political pressure, the government stood its ground and decided not to roll back fuel price reforms. 8But as petroleum minister, many would say that Pradhan has been unsuccessful in his primary task, and that is to raise domestic production of oil & gas. In over more than four years, his track record is less than satisfactory. He did try to goad ONGC and OIL to push for more, but eventually, he could go only so far and no more. One of his big failures is his inability to push up gas production by going for low hanging fruits such as bringing the Daman development project to fruition. What the project is heading into is a scam of sorts which may need further investigation. 8The fact that the deadline for the KG-DWN-98/2 development is not going to be met and delays can be as high as 15 to 24 months is a cause for deep worry. ONGC messed up on the initial development model and by the time it realized that it was a mistake --of not allowing contractors to come up with the best design and implementation model and then selecting one and handing over a contract to it to put it together -- the timelines spun out of control. 8Another big mistake was for the government to allow the domestic ship building lobby to sabotage GAIL's attempt to build a dozen LNG ships. As the LNG vessel market tightens, GAIL may have to end up paying a high price for not having a captive fleet to offtake its US LNG commitments. 8Pradhan still has enough time to make up for the mistakes of the past. What he needs to do is speed up his to-do list of things if he really has to leave a mark as a petroleum minister.