Skip to main content

Gujarat's Panama Papers link? State-owned GSPC had "links" with controversial companies investigated by ICIJ

Subir Ghosh
By Rajiv Shah
In a new book, Subir Ghosh, Bangalore-based journalist, researcher and writer, quoting an ex-Government of India bureaucrat, has alleged that the former bluechip state public sector undertaking (PSU) Gujarat State Petroleum Corporation (GSPC) has had links with a company that was associated with dubious business concerns mentioned in the infamous Panama Papers.
Titled “Grand Illusion: The GSPC Disaster and the Gujarat Model”, the book’s writer is a co-author of the controversial “Gas Wars: Crony Capitalism and the Ambanis”, which has invited Rs 100 crore defamation suit from the Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL). The book was released in Ahmedabad on Thursday.
Published by Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, another co-author of “Gas Wars”, the book quotes former economic affairs secretary EAS Sarma as writing to the Enforcement Directorate (ED) “bringing in the Panama Papers angle”, says Ghosh, after the ED did not respond to an earlier plea to investigate into GSPC’s alliance with a private company, of which a former Gujarat minister known to be close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi was a “beneficiary.”
Sarma is quoted as saying, “I find more distressing facts about the Gujarat Natural Resources Ltd (GNRL). It was operating through six subsidiaries which include Heramec, Gorlas, Sigma Oil & Gas & Alkor Petro and Overseas.”
The book says, the GNRL, contrary to its misleading name, is a private limited company and not a state enterprise. Saurabh Patel, a former minister overseeing GSPC, was a “beneficiary investor in GNRL.” Patel, fighting Gujarat state assembly polls from Vadodara and a BJP chief ministerial aspirant, was mysteriously removed as state energy minister after Vijay Rupani took over the state’s reins of power last year.
Book further quotes Sarma as saying, “Both Heramec and Gorlas figure on the website of International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and Panama Papers, as evident from the enclosed snapshot pictures of that website.” The book, however, does not provide the “enclosed shapshots”.
Sarma continued, “It is surprising that the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas (MoPNG) should assign eight oil blocks to [the] GSPC knowing well that Heramec is a 30% partner in Kanawara, North Kathana, Allora, Unawa, North Balol and a partner with Oil and Natural Gas Commission (ONGC) in CB-ONN-2004/1, CB-ONN-2004/4 (see pages 71 and 72 of the enclosed GNRL annual report for 2015–16).”
Sarma underlined, “Assignment of such a large number of hydrocarbon blocks to GSPC/GNRL consortium was in itself highly questionable. [The] MoPNG should be asked to explain the circumstances that compelled it to allot these blocks to the Gujarat consortium.”
He added, “In turn, it is distressing as to how [the] GSPC, a state PSU, under the administrative control of Saurabh Patel, the minister, joined hands with such a highly questionable company, namely GNRL, and its subsidiaries and exposed itself to an enormous risk, which in turn got indirectly transmitted to MoPNG, knowing well that GNRL was only a family concern of the minister.”
The accusation comes amidst indications emerging that GSPC, which has reportedly gone bankrupt, is being bailed out by a Central PSU, the largest oil and gas producer, Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC), which has completed a Rs 7,738 crore acquisition of 80% stake in GSPC.
An earlier letter by Sarma to ED had said, “The annual report of GNRL shows how GSPC had allowed that company to have a share in several oil blocks it won in competitive bidding. GNRL was partly owned by Saurabh Patel, the minister in charge of the department in Gujarat.”
Sarma had added, “These findings raise very serious concerns about the way Saurabh Patel had a free hand in the then Modi government of Gujarat and how valuable oil blocks that belong to the people of India were bartered away to foreign nationals of questionable credentials.”

Comments

TRENDING

Arrest of Fr Stan Swamy: UN makes public letter seeking explanation from Govt of India

Counterview Desk In a letter to the Government of India (GoI), three senior United Nations (UN) officials – Elina Steinerte, vice-chair of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention; Mary Lawlor, special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; and Fernand de Varennes, special rapporteur on minority issues – have said that the arrest of veteran activist Father Stan Swamy in October 2020 marks “the escalation of harassment the human rights defender has been subjected to since 2018.”

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Farm laws 'precursor' to free trade deal envisaged by US corporates to allow GMO

By Rajiv Shah Did the Government of India come up with the three farm laws, first rushed by promulgating ordinances in June 2020, to not just open the country’s agricultural sector to the corporate sector but also as a precursor to comply with the requirements of the United States for a Free Trade Agreement (FTA), as envisaged by the outgoing US president Donald Trump?

Modi govt 'implementing' IMF-envisaged corporate takeover of Indian agriculture

By Bhabani Shankar Nayak* The surge of wealth of Indian billionaires and the Modi-led BJP government’s onslaught on poor, marginalised and farmers continue to grow simultaneously as masses face annihilating pandemic of coronavirus. There is 90 % rise of Indian billionaire’s wealth over last one decade. It is not accidental.

Differing from Ambedkar, Kancha Ilaiah holds a 'different' theory of caste system

By Banavath Aravind* I was introduced to Kancha Ilaiah’s work when I was about 20 years old. He was then in the midst of a controversy for a chapter in his book "Post-Hindu India: A Discourse in Dalit-Bahujan, Socio-Spiritual and Scientific Revolution", which termed the Baniya community as social smugglers. During many of his debates, I had come to notice his undeterred fighting spirit in trying to bring up certain fundamental social issues that were hitherto undiscussed. I eventually came across some of his works and started reading them silently. I’m deliberately stressing upon the word ‘silently’ here, as this was the kind of silence particularly associated with sensitive social issues like caste, religion, etc. But, as I write this essay, I feel silences on sensitive issues should be broken. Ilaiah opened up an entirely new debate that had the vigour and strength to counter the systemic Brahmanism. His methods of research were also novel in terms of going back to the roo

New trend? Riots 'expanded' to new rural areas post-2002 Gujarat carnage: Report

A VHP poster declaring a Gujarat village part of Hindu Rashtra  By Rajiv Shah  Buniyaad, a Gujarat-based civil society organization, engaged in monitoring of communal violence in the state, in a new report, “Peaceful Gujarat: An Illusion or Truth?” has said that a “new trend” has come about in communal violence in the state, where the parts of Gujarat which didn't see communal riots in 2002 are experiencing “regular bouts” of communal violence.

Fr Stan's arrest figures in UK Parliament: Govt says, Indian authorities were 'alerted'

London protest for release of Stan Swamy  By Rajiv Shah Will Father Stan Swamy’s arrest, especially the fact that he is a Christian and a priest, turn out to be major international embarrassment for the Government of India? It may well happen, if a recent debate on a resolution titled “India: Persecution of Minority Groups” in the United Kingdom (UK) Parliament is any indication. While Jesuits have protested Fr Stan's arrest in UK and US, the resolution, adopted in the Parliament, said, “This House has considered the matter of persecution of Muslims, Christians and minority groups in India”.

A new fad in India, coding-for-toddlers culture needs to be 'nipped' in the bud

By Aditya Pandey* We are all aware of the dire consequences of subjecting young kids to intense academic pressure from an early age. In India, we have coaching institutes like FIITJEE and Resonance offering programmes for 6th standard kids to prepare them for “NTSE, IJSO, PRMO and other Olympiads”. The duration of these programmes is around 175 hours – hours that could've been spent playing games and making friends instead.

More than 5,200 Gujarat schools to be closed down, merged, says govt document

RTE Forum, Gujarat, releasing fact-sheet on education By Our Representative A Gujarat government document has revealed that it is planning to close down 5,223 schools in the name of school merger. The document, dated July 20, 201 was released by the Right to Education (RTE) Forum, Gujarat. It shows that the worst-affected districts because of this merger are those which are populated by marginalized communities – especially tribals, Dalits and minorities, said RTE Forum’s Gujarat convener Mujahid Nafees.

Consumption pattern, not economic shock behind 'poor' child health indicators

By Neeraj Kumar, Arup Mitra* The findings of the latest round of National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5) conducted in 2019-20 covering 22 States/UTs under Phase-I  present a somewhat disappointing picture of children’s health in India. Majority of the experts, based on prima facie evidence, just highlighted the deteriorating sign of child health in terms of increase in proportion of stunted and underweight children in most of the phase-I states/UTs over last two rounds of NFHS (2015-16 to 2019-20).