Jan 142015

India's Shadow Chase

Ref:15/Article/01 of 14 January, 2015                                                               By Kalidas (Anil Selarka)

The Elections are won on rhetoric. The slogans are invented based on the current perceptions of the masses so that they can be addressed by playing them up in loops until the election process is over.

BJP led by vibrant face of Narendra Modi judged the mood of the people against corruption and scandals correctly and orchestrated national campaign of Congress hatao, desh ko bachao. (Remove Congress, Save the Nation). He galvanized the nation with his indomitable spirit reminiscent of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, a renowned freedom fighter and close ally of Mahatma Gandhi. Modi used modern technology, like conveying his views through Face book, and secured massive and convincing mandate from the people by leading BJP (or Bhajap) into a single party majority in the parliament.

PM Modi, equipped with massive mandate and clean image against the backdrop of tainted politicians of Congress, had to face uphill task of dealing with the stark reality – high inflation, slow growth, high current account and bloated budget deficits. All he needed was the massive amount of money in the coffer. He recounted his election promise of bringing back into the country massive amount of black money suspected to have been stashed overseas, especially in Tax haven like Switzerland which he singled out without doing enough home work.

Narendra Modi in pensive mood

Narendra Modi in pensive mood

When a doctor wants to treat a disease, he has to diagnose it with clinical accuracy. He should have facts straight, all X rays and pathological reports on his table, have the expert colleagues endorse his diagnosis; and then only he could venture into critical surgery. Wrong facts, reports, analysis, concepts and prejudices invariably lead to wrong diagnosis that would lead to wrong medicines, thereby killing or paralyzing the patient on his operating table.

Modi is a politician, not an expert on economy. His belief backed by popular views that the lakhs of crores of black money were lying outside India was terribly wrong – I will prove it later. He did not have basic idea – why, how, when and where the black money was generated and then stored. He thought that all black money were in the form of “physical currency or electronic money” and must be in bank account, which was outrageous and wrong. He, and for that matter Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan, do not have faintest idea whether or not so called money are stacked overseas in physical or electronic form or in some form of other assets. Pic10_Black Money Dr. Subramanian Swamy and his bizarre claim…. Modi was backed in his belief by so called Harvard educated economist – Dr. Subramanian Swamy of his own BJP party, who filed PIL (Public Interest Litigation) in Supreme Court to bring the black money back home, estimated to run into several lakhs of crores. He also alleged that more than 1.2 million bank accounts of the tax dodgers in India exist in foreign banks. Dr. Swamy never backed up his claim how did he acquire or arrive at the numbers. Although he proclaims to be an expert economist educated at Harvard University of United States, never did he give a single constructive suggestion to improve the core economy or any other social issues in his last 40 years of his political and parliamentary career.

Not so easy to open Foreign Bank Accounts…….
Being NRI living in United States and Hong Kong alternately, I know for sure how difficult it is to open a bank account in normal course. Most banks in United States and also in non- US countries are governed by Patriot Act (a US Law) under which banks and financial institutions are required to observe strict rules (known as KYC or Know Your Customer rules) for opening an account. They open the account only after satisfying potential customer’s full identity with a view to eliminating the possibilities of money laundering later.

Further, the banks in foreign countries usually insist on minimum balance from USD 1250 to 4000 in normal accounts and over $25,000 for premium accounts. Let us evaluate his outlandish claim of foreign bank accounts.

Not every bank account overseas held by some Indian names are tax dodgers from India. As per Government of India’s survey in 2012 <http://moia.gov.in/writereaddata/pdf/NRISPIOS-Data%2815-06-12%29new.pdf>, about 21.90 million Indians or about 5 million families live abroad known as NRI (Non Resident Indians) and PIO (Persons of Indian Origins). Most of them are poor laborers living in Malaysia, Sri Lanka and petty job earners in Middle East (See the above cited report).

However, the rich Non Resident Indians of about 5 millions live in wealthy countries like US, UK, Germany, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore and other tax havens. Most of such bank balances are tax paid legal money as they pay the taxes to their host governments. Just because their names are sounding “Indian” does not mean their savings belong to tax dodgers of domestic Indians. If we presume that of alleged 1.2 million accounts overseas were held by domestic Indians with average balance of $100,000 per account (Rs 60 lakhs) – no wealthy man would open foreign account with small amount – total amount that would have been held by local residents abroad would be $120 billion ( 1.2 mil x $100,000 = $ 120,000 million) or Rs. 720,000 crores or Rs 7.20 lakh crores ($ 1 Million = Rs 6 crores @ Rs 60 per dollar). The potential tax loss to the national exchequer (Income Tax Dept.) would be 33% or Rs 2.40 lakh crores. This is absurd as proved later.

Remitting alleged money abroad via “hawala” routes… It is extremely dangerous to send the money abroad using “hawala” trades. One has to depend on the unknown hawala trader to pay honestly abroad in a bank account. Also, the cost of hawala is anywhere between 3% to 5% depending on the experience of the concerned local Indian remitter. Most hawala trades are being conducted through Dubai (60%), Hong Kong (10%), Singapore(15%) and London (15%). Advanced countries including Switzerland are rarely used since large remittances attract the attention of their respective central banks.

Ever since UBS (Union Bank of Switzerland) disclosed thousands of names of US Investors considered potential tax defaulters, major investors have started distrusting “Switzerland” as preferred destination. UBS lost over $60 billions from under its management. Once considered almost second largest bank in the word after Citibank, UBS has paled into insignificance. HSBC, Switzerland who disclosed over 628 names to Government of India will also face the same fate. No one would trust HSBC if it does not respect the privacy of the investor customers. The actions by UBS and now HSBC in Switzerland would dissuade major investors from parking the money in Switzerland. Not every local Indian can remit or would remit money using hawala trades. He does not trust even a local friend or family member with paltry sum of Rs 1 lakh. Where is the question of his trusting unknown hawala traders with Rs 60 lakhs (= US$ 100,000 @ Rs 60/$)?

Wild and absurd estimates of black money parked abroad… The estimates of the Government of India or that of Global Financial Integrity (GFI – a think tank based in Washington DC) in United States, that over $500 billions (Rs 3,000,000 or 30 lakh crores) are being held by local Indians is therefore grossly inflated and highly unrealistic. ($1 = Rs 60; $1 million = Rs 6 crores; $1 billion = Rs 6,000 crores) Money in circulation is different from total capital and revenue assets of an individual. For instance, an Individual’s total assets including home, gold, car and cash may amount to Rs 1 crore at market value, but real cash saved in bank accounts or in hard cash may not exceed Rs 10 lakhs. If an individual earns Rs 1 lakh every month, he earns Rs 12 lakhs in a year. (Monthly income x Velocity or a factor of 12 for entire year). If he saves Rs 1 lakh per year after taxes (1/12th of his gross earnings), it would take him at least 8.25 years to accumulate the savings of Rs 10 lakhs in cash.

Businesses, where most black money is generated, the money rotates 4 to 6 times a year. That is, Rs 1 crore cash/credit/bank balance could generate sales revenue of Rs 4 to 6 crores per year (based on trade credit of 3 to 2 months respectively). If his net profit margin is say 6%, his savings after personal expenses would be hardly 1% of gross revenue (sales). In other words, for Rs 1 of black money, he should have Gross Revenue of Rs 100 or 100 times the black money. If we are to believe that $500 billions have been stashed outside (Net Income) and they are all black money, then the gross business revenue would have been 100 x $500 billion or $50,000 billions or $50 trillion!

The size of entire Indian economy is not even $1.5 trillions including black and white money, then in that case, how black money alone could have been 50 times GDP of entire Indian nation? Based on above, we can only conclude that most black money are not hoarded abroad. Over 95 % black money generated in India are being held locally (and not overseas) in various forms of assets as under:

1. In Real estate where every transaction entail 60:40 (white:black) ratio. Do you want to assess how much black money is generated by “Real Estate” sector per year? consider the following. Almost every real estate transaction, be it residential, commercial or industrial property, generates (source) and applies (application or utilization) black money depending on whether one is a seller or buyer. In Metropolitan cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Bangalore, Surat and Ahmedabad, the deal ratio is 60:40 (White: Black money).

The population of Delhi is say, 2.8 crore. Presuming average family size of 4, there may be about 70 lakh families residing in Delhi. They need 70 lakh homes. Most of lower income group (LIG) or middle income group (MIG) live in chawls or small tenements rented for years. They do not generate lot of black money, as transactions are few and far between for such homes. Only those 10 to 20 years old are recently owned. Presuming that at least 40% are owned out of 70 lakhs homes, the total newly owned homes may be about 28 lakhs.

Let us presume that annual real estate transactions rate is 10% of such homes or say about 2.8 lakhs. One may use exact numbers from the Registrar of Property. Average size of each property transacted may be Rs 80 lakhs. The black money element is 40% or say, Rs 32 lakhs per apartment or home. If there are 600,000 transactions in Delhi and Mumbai together in 2014, the amount of black money being generated (source) or applied (utilized) is 600,000 x Rs 32 lakhs (0.32 crore) = Rs 192,000 crores. (Rs 1.92 lakh crores).

In other centers, the black money generated would be Rs 50,000 crores (Ahmedabad), Rs 1 lakh crore each in Bangalore, Chennai and Surat – a city of diamond which business thrives only on black money. Even some of the names released by HSBC list are those of diamond merchants from Surat, Gujarat. A majority of diamond merchants in India are Gujaratis. These are only guesstimate. We have not considered Commercial and Industrial properties where the size of the deal is from few crores to thousands of crores.

Even chief of Sahara group is trying to sell his real estate for Rs 1,200 crores in Mumbai to get out of jail.

In other words, to arrive at reasonably correct numbers, we have to use registered value of property all over India x 2/3. Reason: If the gross value is Rs 1 crore and registered value Rs 60 lakhs, the black money portion is Rs 40 lakhs. Therefore, if we use registered value of the property as base, which is official number, the black money element is 40/60 or 2/3rd of registered value. If the Government works out the Registered value of all property on national level (including Homes, Offices and Industrial properties), it can arrive at the generation level of black money during the relevant period. (Say, 2014)

If Government extends this exercise for last 15 years at least, it will arrive at the extent of black money cumulatively generated and tied up in the real estate sector with 60 to 70% accuracy. I am 100% sure that the amount so arrived at will be several times the black money suspected in overseas bank accounts. By my rough guess, the extent of black money tied up in real estate sector over last 15 years will be not less than Rs 40 lakh crores.

Please note that the property value has risen only during last 7 years. In first 8 of last 15 years, the property value was hardly around 30% of current value. The extent of generation of black money in first 8 years may not be as much as they were in rest of 7 years.

2. In Agriculture land which is being transacted at “Ready Reckoner” value. It is just at 10% of real transaction value. The black money so generated goes into the hand of a farmer who is never investigated. The sale of agriculture land does not attract capital gain tax if the land is situated more than 8 km from the urban center or local City municipalities. Even sale of land is treated as agriculture income which is not subject to income tax. In other words, the black money is white washed once those lands are sold.

Supposing one has Rs 1 crore black money in cash. He buys agriculture land, say 10 acres, @ Rs 10 lakhs per acre. The official agreement value as per Ready Reckoner” will be just Rs 10 lakhs. Thus, his black money of Rs 90 lakhs is effectively employed. When he sells the said agriculture land for official value of Rs 50 lakhs (his cost Rs 10 lakhs), the surplus income of Rs 40 lakhs would not be taxable.

In other words, his black money to the extent of Rs 40 lakhs (out of Rs 90 lakhs originally) gets white washed officially. Call it a tax avoidance or tax planning. Most buyers of agriculture lands of large value are Doctors, Lawyers and local businessmen who receive most of their incomes without bills and pay little taxes by way of excise duty, sales tax, income tax and service tax.

Farmers too hold agriculture land, but they are “holy cow” and would not be touched even with 100 feet long pole by any government. Whereas farmers are a ”vote bank”, the black money holders are the “note bank” of any aspiring political party to fight election.

If Modi government goes all out to punish businessmen who are large black money holders, none of such businessmen would ever come forward to donate political contributions to BJP in forthcoming election in 2019. In other words, the present Modi or BJP government would lose that election hands down, and 2014-19 could prove to be last 5 years of its rule.

3. In Gold bullion, where most transactions in non urban sector (villages and towns) are in cash or mostly in black money. In large ABCD Metro cities (A = Ahmedabad, B= Bangalore and Bombay (now Mumbai), C= Chennai and D = Delhi) most gold being bought officially are in female names. A woman’s wealth is considered “untouchable” even from the powers of courts and income tax department because it is categorized as “stree dhan” or “married woman’s wealth”

India’s Net import of gold (Gross import – Gross Exports, the value added items like gold ornaments) is about $8 billion per year (Rs 48,000 crores). Gold is the destination of most businessmen’s tax avoidance money. The black money generated out of real estate or business operation gets invested largely into gold. If other sectors are “source” of black money, gold is the “application” of such money. If male folks make too much money, the very first hint goes to the lady of the house. And the very first item she wants to buy is gold. Thus, while husband generates black money, wife applies them skillfully in gold assets. After all, gold is a major gift away to loving daughter – millions of daughters marry every year.

The storage of Rs 1 crore cash needs at least two large suit cases whereas equivalent gold of 3.3 kg would take up only a small locker in a bank. This is why bank lockers are not so easily available to the public.

4. In Diamond, Whereas common men’s destination is gold, diamond is the preferred storage place or application of black money of very rich people. A diamond necklace may cost Rs 1 crore but needs very tiny place to hold it in a bank locker or safe at home. The entire diamond industry located in Zaveri Bazaar in Mumbai and Surat is run and financed by black money. The diamond merchants are the largest hawala players dealing with the black money.

While diamond may be colored white, underlying money is black money.

5. In Mining, the mining sector is one of the largest creator and applicator of black money. Coal mines (biggest scam was in this sector recently), granite, marble or stone mines, (in Rajasthan, Karnataka and Andhra), mineral mines (like dolomite, alumina in Central India) , metal ore mines (aluminum, copper and iron) are the kind of industries run mainly by illiterate owners (called “angutha chhap” or thumb impressionists). Most miners are Marwaris (Rajasthan) and Gujaratis (Gujarat and Kutch) in the west; Chettiyars and Reddys in the south; Agarwals, Mehtas, Sarafs and Shroffs in the north, central and east India.

There is a light hearted joke which I heard when I was in my early college days. A growing child asked his Rajasthani mother – Maa, what is “paap“(sin) ? The mother said, ask your baap (father), he knows it too well. The son then went to his Rajasthani father and asked him same question – pitaji (father), what is sin, did you ever see it? The father adjusted his glasses, held the currency notes in his hands and replied – Kar bharna paap hai (Paying taxes is an act of “sin”). This is why the tax payments of any kind (excise, sales or income taxes) from the said mining sector and respective states is the lowest in India. This is a joke, so do not take offence.

6. Corruption, in the hands of Ministers in Central and State governments, municipalities, courts, government employees, tax collectors, public utilities, education especially in medical and engineering faculties, police and other law enforcing authorities. Since most activities are centered at State administration level, the corruption is widely prevalent and rampant in the states where federal (central) government may not have much control.

The common denominator is “power” . Where lies the power, there thrives the corruption. They are all small thieves but the sheer numbers of government and semi government employees make them one of the largest source of corruption and creator of black money. These persons ride the power and sell the “favors” for cash. (Black money)

These employees are fearless – they feel that once they are caught, their unions will fight for them and they may be transferred at the most . They never fear loss of job. Until their “job security” is threatened by decisive force, we can not stop this major source. Once these corrupt employees and ministers are caught, they should be dismissed (not suspended), their assets confiscated and all retirement benefits withdrawn. They should be booked and ruled within 3 months of concerned corruption incident.

Such corrupt government officers force the honest citizens to become corrupt as well. Say, in medical education, one needs to bribe Rs 12 to 20 lakhs to get the admission for his son or daughter. He does so by corrupting himself taking bribes in his employment or by avoiding payment of income taxes. Why should I pay the tax if the government can not assure me a clean and corruption free administration? He would argue.

We have tons of good laws to govern any kind of economic or social activity – but the efficacy lies only in honest implementation. We do not need new laws, but effective implementation of existing ones..

Are “Black Money holders” traitors? Not all of them. Only corrupt Ministers and government employees could be categorized as “traitors”. In fact, traitor is a very strong word and should be used with utmost discretion. Almost all Indians are patriots. They should not be abused as “traitors” for some innocent economic aberrations.

Most black money is generated by businessmen. They are the driving force of the economy. It is they who create employment. And in addition to their own tax payments, their engaged employees pay even more salary taxes than they do. Banish those businessmen, face multiple closure of businesses and consequent unemployment on massive scale.

We live in democracy where the majority has a right to rule. The businessmen are the largest contributors of taxes to the system. They deserve to be respected for their contributions in creating employment. However, we tend to tenderize them, abuse them, cry them wolf and make them “shaitan’ out of normal human being. We glorify the non tax payers like farmers, poor people, dalits etc. but vilify, abuse and hate tax payers who at times may be dodging some taxes. These businessmen are like “ chickens in the backyard who lay the golden eggs every morning”.

We should never kill such golden chickens. It is their money that goes into the subsidy or helping out poor, farmers, dalits etc. who never paid a paisa to the national exchequer in last 67 years of post independence. We have to understand why do they avoid taxes, and then only take bold steps to address deficiencies in the system so that they come back to tax payment mode by persuasion and not by force.

Tax avoidance is a human instinct and a natural phenomenon. It is as innocent as the stealing of pencil or rubber by a child from other student in his class. Even taking home of stapler, paper or gem clips from office also amount to “stealing” but everyone does that unconsciously. We can perhaps scold the child or an employee, but do not banish them from the society by labeling them as “chor” or “traitor”. Even Lord Krishna stole “makhhan or butter.” Don’t we worship him even then? We pardon his acts of aberration as “natkhat” only because such stealing is innocent and not accompanied by vicious mind.

Once we understand this notion, we can think of taking proper actions by not only unearthing the black money but also avoid its creation in future by installing suitable system. The taxation system has to be fair, equitable and honorable to the tax payers. How many times in last 67 years of independence did we honor, award and reward the largest tax payers in the country with titles like Padma Bhushan or Padma Vibhushan for doing exemplary service?.…. Never. We decorate dead people but forget the living legends.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley is in a state of futile exercise. He can not get back enough money from overseas. The cost of recovery will far exceed the Income Tax collected, besides creating hatred and ill will amongst local businesses against BJP government. It will be a political suicide.

Most black money are lying within India right under our nose, which can be seen with naked eyes. One does not need binoculars to look thousands of miles away at Switzerland or elsewhere. We can not wield stick to get back black money. We need voluntary participation of such tax payers and infuse confidence in them that future tax system will be fair, rational, equitable, easy, vendetta less and meet the needs of large income earners.

Black Money and Black EconomyUnderstating India’s real  GDP by 30% to 40%
The belief that most black money are inactive and hoarded as cash, gold or other passive assets is terribly wrong. Black money is hyper active in Indian economy. The growth generated by such black money is not reflected in the official numbers for obvious reasons. India’s November 2014 annualized growth rate of about 5.5% is understated by at least 2.5%. India’s real growth could be anywhere between 7% to 8%.

What is Money?
The term “money” is not just the physical quantum or volume. The real money is = money (Volume) x Velocity (speed at which the volume circulates). The black money circulates faster than official or white money. For Instance, a businessman may give trade credit of 3 months for white money trades. In such cases, his Rs. 1 crore of trade credit may generate turnover of 4 crores in a year. He may also charge interest at annual rate of @ 12% to 15% depending on the creditworthiness of the buyer. The production or sales recorded in this turnover does get reflected in the official GDP numbers.

For black money related transactions, same businessman may give trade credit of 30 days. As such, his turnover in black market may record Rs 12 crores (12 x 1 crore of trade credit). The turnover so generated does not reflect in country’s GDP numbers. Further, the cost of financing is less at about 9% compared to 15% for white money trades. Most Marwaris (Rajasthanis), Gujaratis, Punjabis or Sindhis conduct such trade financing in the name of “Multani hundis” (similar to Promissory notes or Bill of Exchange for 30 days tenure). The amount is rolled over every month, where the borrower returns the money on last day and re borrows on very next day. This comforts the financier that the borrower does have outside resources or market credit to pay back his loan.

Multani Hundis or Discount Houses
Such financiers are known in the market as “Multanis” and therefore the promissory notes or hundis are known as “Multani hundis” . The cost of financing is lower because the turnover is faster, and the borrower is usually introduced by some good referees. In English, such financiers are known as “discount houses’ in South India (Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad) and in East India (Calcutta) where English is more prevalent.

Real GDP growth = Official GDP% + Unofficial GDP% (due to black money) In other words, the black money economy does not reflect in official numbers, except in electricity bills where no one can separate the electricity consumption between white or black money transactions. If the current growth rate has come down from high of 8% to 4.5% in terms of GDP, the consumption of electricity for commercial or business users have not come down, in fact it has gone up by nearly 10% nation wide, suggesting there is in fact rise, not slowness, in economic activity. The black economy is flourishing at the cost of official economy.

If one wants to know the real GDP or GDP growth rate, he has to sum up both activities – official economy and unofficial (black) economy. While the official economy numbers may be reliable, those of black economy will be just conjectural. It may be noted that all large expenses connected with the black money trades such as cost of rent, electricity, wages, salaries, transportation etc. get debited to official Profit & Loss account (white money transactions) reducing the taxable income. The income portion on black money is not included in the official accounts. The government loses on two counts – the profit is understated due to charging off expenses relating to black money trades, whereas the income generated on black money deployment is not included in the official accounts.

It raises the question – what is the real growth rate for India? Since the growth rate attributable to black economy is conjectural, the best bet is to use approximate % of official money to add up to overall growth. For instance, if the official growth rate is 5.5%, add to it 33% (1/3rd) being the contribution of black economy on conservative basis. It will give us real indicative growth rate of 5.5% + 33% of 5.5 = 5.5%+1.83% = 7.43% If the Income Taxes being collected from individuals is say Rs. 240,000 crores, the loss of income due to black money will be 33% or 1/3rd of declared taxes paid or Rs 80,000 crores. We can not include corporate sector, where large incomes can not be concealed due to compulsory audit of accounts.

Is it possible to extract black money and put them back to work into the system?
Yes, it is. I do have a comprehensive plan and strategy to extract not only more than 40 lakh crores of black money but also create innovative tax system where the honest tax payers are honored with privileges and lessen the importance of non tax payers who have contributed nothing to the nation for over 67 years.

We can achieve the target successfully in less than 18 months from the implementation of my exhaustive plan mentioned in this report that can place India on top of the world, ahead of even United States. The growth rate will return to 8% in 18 months and later over 11% in 30 months time.

Kalidas (real name,  Anil Selarka)
Aliso Viejo, California, United States dated January 14, 2015

The exhaustive plan (almost 450 pages document – I have spent months of my time) is a secret exercise which will be disclosed to the Government of India after agreeing to the terms of arrangement. “No Free Service” because my comprehensive plan will bring in additional Income Tax revenue of Rs. 10 lakh crores at marginal cost of just 2% to say the least.

I have sent this article in letter form to Narendra Modi, Prime Minister, Arun Jaitley, Finance Minister, Rajnath Singh, Home Minister and Amit Shah, BJP President on 23/12/2014 with a copy of my book “Sub Prime Resolved”. No reply, acknowledgement  or response has been received until the time of this publication. 

May 182011

2011-09 of 18 May, 2011   Click here for PDF Download

The difference between a government and private enterprise is that the former looks for the “votes” whereas latter goes for “notes.”


The Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas (Let us say, Oil Ministry) being a section of the government obviously go for the votes. Inflation is rising, GDP is rising, interest rate is rising, budget deficit is rising, subsidies are rising, oil prices and petrol pump prices are rising, but the gas output of Reliance Industries Ltd. major off shore facility in KG Basin is falling.

Reliance Industries Ltd. who owns the licensed facility in Krishna-Godavri Basin is dilly dallying in raising the production. Reason – final product price Gas Prices are not allowed to rise by the government. RIL who opened hundreds of pumps a few years ago shut them down without any ceremony because it could not sell the petrol at subsidized rates and lose money. Same thing is happening in gas produced at KG Basin. Reliance being a public listed company loyal to shareholders and their purses, looks for notes (Rupee) because it can not sell more and more gas at less and less prices.

Reliance is telling the oil ministry – look you want votes, so you are subsidizing but we are not in business of getting votes. We need hard currency notes when we produce and sell the gas from KG Basin. This is why we obtained the license from you and found the huge gas reserve spending thousands of crores of rupees. We are answerable to our shareholders, and look at our stock price which is not rising for over two years in a row. Only due to your policy of containment of the gas prices.

Government of India is taking the matter seriously. It wants to keep the inflation in control, and since it can not control the overseas oil prices and does not want to let the Rupee appreciate either to blunt the effect of the inflation, it has picked up cudgel with the Reliance to up lift the gas production. If gas is produced more domestically, it could cost less, and it could be sold cheaper to the common people by not raising the prices, and also save on extra budget deficits.

However, RIL is not ONGC or Oil Marketing Companies like ONGC, IOC, BPCL, HPCL or MRPL who shoulder part of subsidy by themselves and also ask the government 10 times before raising prices. RIL means business, and just as it shutter down all petrol pump due to its inability to pass on the extra costs to the consumers under prohibitive price control, it would shut down the Gas Platform or rigs or wells in KG Basin if it can not raise the price in conformity with the market prices.

Now, the Government says – Do it and RIL says it can’t (= won’t). It plays up the technical and feasibility studies in its defense and says that drilling more wells will not be technically feasible. If that was so, why did British Petroleum agree to pay US$ 9 billions only two months back to take stake in those very ventures RIL says are not profitable or technically not feasible?

What RIL is telling the Government that – Look, We are not ONGC or IOC. You allow us to raise the gas prices, we will drill more. If you say No, then we may not say “No” but we can say “We can’t”. After all you are a government, and like King, the government “Does No Wrong”.

The government is in fix. They can armtwist Anil Agarwal or some other telco company, but here they are fighting a muted war with Mukesh Ambani of RIL who lives in US$ 1 Billion bungalow, and where he has spent more money in guest toilet than what Government spent on whole floor or block on the parliament street housing the Petroleum and Gas Ministry (oil ministry).

What could happen if both sides remain adamant. Would the ministry cancel the license or permission to extract the gas in the name of protecting or efficiently utilizing the national resources in best national interest and force “RIL to do it or abandon it”

RIL, if government orders it as above, would go to the Supreme Court and assert the right to dictate the free market prices under the law and in order to protect the best interests of its shareholders. The Supreme Court will be in dilemma and will have to chose lesser devil. If RIL succeeds in imposing free market prices, almost all State Owned Refineries such as ONGC, MRPL, IOC, BPCL and HPCL too will benefit.

So it is a battle royal. It will be a important battle reminiscent of Napoleon or Sikander. This will make it interesting to watch.

Kalidas (Anil Selarka)

Ref: 2011-09 of 2011-05-18