New Delhi: In a stunning comment, Oil Minister M Veerappa Moily on Friday said petroleum ministers are "threatened" by import lobbies not to take decisions that will cut India's USD 160 billion oil imports.
Moily, who has been under attack from the CPI leader Gurudas Dasgupta for proposing to hike natural gas prices by 60 per cent, said he has been striving to attract investments in almost stagnant oil and gas exploration which will lead to higher domestic output and lesser reliance on imports.
"I am telling you with all sense of responsibility (that) we are floating in oil and gas in this country. And we don't explore it. We put every obstruction not to do it. There is bureaucratic obstructions and delays.
"And also there are other lobbies. They don't want us to stop imports. There are some lobbies who are working on that. Every minister is threatened many a times. Every minister who occupies this position is threatened," he told reporters here.
Moily however refused to name anyone or identify anyone who may have directly or indirectly threatened ministers.
"History will speak about it. It is for you to judge," he said, adding oil imports will rise dramatically if domestic production is not incentivised through right pricing policy.
"This (increase in oil imports) will work to the detriment of the country. We are challenged by the vagaries of international price," he said.
The revision in natural gas prices was aimed at reviving investor confidence and attracting investments, he added.
"For the last 4-5 years, investor sentiments is not that high... We have to give right price, otherwise nobody will come. One well (in the ultra deepsea) may sometime cost in millions of dollars," he said.
Moily said he has proposed to the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) the raising of domestic gas prices from current USD 4.2 per million British thermal unit to USD 6.775.
Moily said he will not be cowed down by any lobby and will continue to work for any India energy independent by 2030. "I am not helpless. Any timid minister will not go forward... I have come here to strive hard for the sake of the country, to work for the country. If anybody thinks that decision making process in the oil sector will be prevented they are totally wrong," he said.
"After having dismantled many of the obstacles, it is in the national interest to go for aggressive exploration. Investors should also come. They should be attracted it is not done now," Moily said.
India spent a recored USD 160 billion on import of oil last fiscal and the geographical progression is that imports are going up, he added.
Raising domestic oil and gas production by increased exploration is the answer but decisions are not taken which is hurting the country.
"Decisions are not taken. Trend is not to take decisions here. I don't want to blame anybody. This is the fate of the country," he said.
Asked about Dasgupta's allegations that the gas price hike was to benefit Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL), he said he and his ministry are open to any solution that will help unshackle the present grid of non-investment-no-production and increased imports.
"I had called him (Dasgupta) but he is not prepared to come for a discussion. But I can reassure Gurudas Dasgupta or whosoever is there in the market, all the criticism should be there, but it should not get personal," he said.
He said he was open to any suggestion of the CPI leader.
"I am open to any suggestion by Gurudas Dasgupta or any other person. If they can come out with best solution, we are open it as after all we are doing this in the interest of the country.
"But in the process of ego, in the process of lobbying and in the process of just criticising for stake of criticism or in the process of politicising, don't commit national crime.
Don't prevent exploration in the country. Let us move ahead more aggressively, it is in the best interest of the country," he said.
Moily added: "We had suggested USD 6.7. It is for CCEA to reduce it or increase. I am not playing for any lobby. I am playing for national lobby. I will ignore lobby. Anybody has useful suggestion, they can give it to me. The history will speak about it. It is for you to judge."
First Published: Friday, June 14, 2013, 15:48