People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 45

November 11, 2012





Govt Gave Post-Facto Clearance, Twisted


J S Majumdar


OFFSHORE drilling in the KG-D6 block in Krishna-Godavari basin of Andhra Pradesh by Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) is now in the eye of a storm, inside and outside the parliament, after its exposure by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG). Much has come out since then about the huge benefits the accrued to RIL as the government allowed it a price increase, disregarding the interests of the people and the public sector National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC). 


It is, however, little known that, from the beginning, the NDA as well as the UPA government at the centre has shown undue haste, in bending backward to award favours to the RIL. This gives one enough ground to label accusations of a corporate-politician-bureaucrat nexus. Earlier too, post-facto environmental clearance was given to the RIL in violation of law and facts were twisted to justify it.


As it was, Reliance was so confident about the government’s approval that it started offshore drilling of wells in KG-D6 block even before it got the clearance. This fact was noted by the Ministry of Environment and Forests of the Government of India in its letter no. J-11022/84/2001-IA.II(I) dated October 28, 2002 to the RIL. The letter, inter alia, read: “It had come to the notice of the Ministry that M/S RIL have started drilling operations without obtaining prior environmental clearance…… two wells have been drilled and a third well is under drilling in KG-DWN-98/3(KGD6).”


And what was the decision of the ministry? Cancellation of the allotment and prosecution of the RIL under law? No. The ministry wrote: “The Ministry of Environment and Forests hereby accords environmental clearance under EIA Notification dated January 27, 1994.”


A second such episode happened the following year. The Ministry of Environment and Forest, vide the same as quoted above, gave block-wise clearance for drilling in specified number of wells – six in KG18; four in KG19; six in KG20; four in KGD4 and eight in KGD6.


But ignoring the block-wise number of wells, post-facto cleared by the ministry for drilling, the RIL concentrated on KG-D6 and drilled 18 wells in that block instead of 8 as were approved.


Again, what was the response of the ministry? Vide another letter no. J.11011/84/2001-IA(II)-I dated November 6, 2003 --- under the subject Exploratory drilling operation in five blocks off the coast of Andhra Pradesh ex-facto environmental clearance reg. --- the ministry conveyed “its permission for drilling of 28 wells (total in five blocks) as per the revised numbers in each block.”


While doing so, the ministry again twisted facts by treating all the five blocks as parts of a single block recording, “each block within the same block, i.e. KG basin off shore block in the Bay of Bengal.” To accommodate the RIL, the ministry made the great invention that the Krishna Godavari basin in Andhra Pradesh is a single block!


And, in any case, if the RIL has been concentrating only on KG-D6, which is in the centre of a storm today, why the four other blocks continue to remain allocated to the RIL? 


These are our questions. Has the government any answer?