आतंकियों के संरक्षक चीन से व्यापार कैसा

भारत के बहुत सारे व्यापारियों ने इस दीपावली नुकसान उठा कर भी चीनी पटाखों और लड़ियों का बहिष्कार करना तय किया है। सोशल मीडिया में भारत के व्यापारी और उपभोक्ता दोनों ही चीनी माल के बहिष्कार के लिए मुहीम चला रहे हैं। आज भारत विश्व की सबसे तेजी से बढ़ने वाली अर्थव्यवस्था होने के साथ ही चीन का एक प्रमुख बाजार भी है। हिंदुस्तानियों द्वारा चीनी माल का बहिष्कार निश्चय ही चीन को सबक सीखा देगा, जो एक तरफ तो भारत से व्यापार बढ़ाना चाहता है और दूसरी तरफ पाकिस्तान में फल-फूल रहे मसूद अजहर जैसे आतंकियों का पक्षधर है। चीन के विरोध के कारण ही यूनाइटेड नेशन्स मसूद अजहर को आतंकी घोषित कर उसके खिलाफ कार्रवाई नहीं कर पा रहा है। आज एक तरफ तो लगभग 150 चीनी व्यापारी नई दिल्ली में भारत सरकार से दोनों देशों के बीच व्यापार बढ़ाने के लिए बातचीत कर रहे हैं और दूसरी तरफ भारत में पाकिस्तान की तरफ से होने वाले आतंकी हमलों का खुल कर समर्थन भी दे रहे हैं। जब देश के बार्डर पर भारतीय जवानों का खून बह रहा है और जब देश के नागरिक चीनी माल का बहिष्कार कर रहे हैं तो ऐसे समय में सरकार को चाहिए कि वह भी चीन और अमेरिका को ‘गुड टेरर’ और ‘बैड टेरर’ का खेल खेलना बंद करने को कहे। जिस तरह बंदूक की नोक पर पाकिस्तान से बातचीत नहीं हो सकती, उसी तरह पाकिस्तान में पल रहे आतंकियों कि निंदा न करने वाले देशों के साथ व्यापार भी नहीं बढ़ाया जा सकता है। बंदूक के साये में चीन भारत में अपने सामान नहीं बेच सकता है।
-राजीव जायसवाल

(As published in Amar Ujala

Does Oil Market Ring Alarm Bell for India?

God has been with the Modi Government. It is evident when one sees the downward trend of international oil prices since mid 2004. It dropped from over $100 per barrel to below $30 per barrel in January 2015. Thereafter, it stabilised around $40-45 a barrel. Currently, international oil prices are within India’s comfort zone. But, those who are perceptive can also hear an alarm bell. Last week, a dominant cartel of oil producers, OPEC announced a supply cut by almost 1 million barrels per day from the next month. This is first such announcement by the cartel in almost a decade. It will eventually hit India the most because after America and China, India is the world’s third largest petroleum importer. Interestingly, India snatched Japan’s third position in 2013-14 by doing nothing significant to reduce its import dependence. According to reports, India imported record crude oil in August this year. And this import dependence is growing alarmingly. India will soon lose its comfort if global crude oil prices breach $50 per barrel mark. History records treachery of international oil prices when it surged to $147 a barrel in July 2008 and then dropped below $40 in January next year only to jump again over $100 per barrel in about two years. India imports more than 80% of crude oil it processes. This import will increase further to sustain its fast economic growth. India’s energy import dependence is unlikely to decrease in the near future as no fresh investments were made in augmenting oil and gas output since 2009-10. There is an urgent need to reduce India’s import dependence else prices of petrol, diesel, kerosene and cooking gas would soar and hit the common man hard.

(Also published in Hindi on Oct 3, 2016 in Amar Ujala

The cow is entitled for retirement benefits

Last week, the Bombay High Court upheld the Maharashtra government’s ban on slaughter of cows, but it also ruled that consuming or keeping imported beef would not be illegal in the state.

Food habit is something personal and it should be respected. This is unfortunate that the issue of cow is often judged from a religio-political angle. Its economic aspect is always ignored.

The cow is an economic asset. It does not discriminate its master on the basis of his or her religion. It has made immense economic contribution, some of that are visible in the form of brands like Amul, Mother Dairy, Danone, Sudha, Patanjali’s desi ghee etc.

Its milk is also a major source of nutrition for farmers’ families. Poor villagers depend on dung cakes for cooking food besides keeping them warm in chilling winters. Technically, there is an employer-employee relationship between the cow and its master.

Like any other public or private sector employee, the cow also retires after certain age. Shouldn’t it be entitled for decent retirement benefits? Should it be slaughtered only because it ceased to be an economic asset? We should have a rationale and humane approach towards all beings. But, all actions should be voluntary.

(Also published in Hindi — Amar Ujala, May 9, 2016

Consensus vs.Control

More than 10 million citizens gave up their claims over cooking gas subsidy since Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s appeal at Urja Sangam conclave on March 27 last year. It is reported that 97% of them belong to middle class or lower class. About 50% of them belong to Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu. Most of them are teachers, government employees, bank executives and retired people. They have limited means and they get rattled by even a Re 1 per unit hike in food prices like milk, egg or vegetables. Why did they give up more than Rs 1,200 per year subsidy? Because the decision was not forced on them. This should be the lesson for policy makers. Success of any policy decision lies on its acceptance by the people. Forced odd-even is as unacceptable as excise duty on jewellers. Build consensus for effective governance. After all, the government represents the people.

(Also published in Hindi @ Amar Ujala, Apr 25, 2016, p. 11.

Hoarders, Beware!

Positive vital statistics last week created an atmosphere of exuberance and hope for both rural and urban economies. Latest data showed a 2% positive growth in industrial activities and a drop in retail inflation. Sensex also crossed 25K in just three trading sessions last week in anticipation of good days ahead. All these developments have one common trigger; India will get a good monsoon after two years. According to the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD), the country is expected to get above normal monsoon. What will be its impact? This is an alarm bell for such unscrupulous traders who are hoarding food grains to jack up rates for profiteering. After good monsoon food prices will fall. Fearing this, hoarders will be forced to bring out grains from their godowns. Food prices of most of the edible items, barring import dependent pulses, are expected to soften soon.

(English version of ArthBodh column published in Amar Ujala, Apr 18, 2016 )

मध्यवर्ग पर बजट भारी

वित्त मंत्री अरुण जेटली के बजट भाषण के बाद से ही मध्य वर्ग और नौकरी पर निर्भर लाखों लोग सकते में हैं। उनको उम्मीद थी कि इस बजट में उन्हें आयकर में कुछ छूट मिलेगी, जिससे बढ़ती महंगाई से वे कुछ राहत महसूस कर सकेंगे। वैसे तो आंकड़े बताते हैं कि महंगाई की दर में काफी कमी आई है और स्थिति नियंत्रण में है, पर आंकड़ों से हट कर अगर हम जमीनी सच्चाई को देखें तो पता चलेगा कि रोजमर्रा के वस्तुओं की कीमत तेज गति से बढ़ती तो है पर उसमें गिरावट की गति काफी मंद होती है।

ऐसी स्थिति में नौकरी पर निर्भर परिवारों को बजट से काफी उम्मीदें थीं लेकिन उनकी उम्मीदों पर पानी फिर गया, उनके आकांक्षा की वस्तुओं, जैसे की गाड़ियां, ब्रांडेड कपड़े और गहने पहुंच के बाहर दिखने लगे हैं। आखिर, ये सभी चीजें सिर्फ अमीरों की पहुंच में ही क्यों रहे? बजट में सिगरेट जैसी हानिकारक वस्तुओं पर कर बढ़ा कर वित्त मंत्री ने कैंसर जैसी बीमारी से जनता को बचाने का अच्छा प्रयास किया है लेकिन, बीड़ी को बढे़ हुए कर के दायरे से बाहर रख कर कहीं वो वोट बैंक की राजनीति तो नहीं कर रहे हैं? क्या गरीब बीड़ी पीने वालों को लंग कैंसर नहीं होता? बजट ने ईपीएफ पर टैक्स लगाने की बात कर गैर सरकारी नौकरी पेशा लोगों को और भी निराश किया है।

वित्त मंत्रालय की सफाई है की वह पेंशन जैसे सामाजिक सुरक्षा नेट में अधिक से अधिक लोगों को लाना चाहता है। लेकिन वास्तविकता यह है कि सरकार न्यू पेंशन स्कीम (एनपीएस) को आकर्षक बनाने के लिए केंद्रीय न्यासी बोर्ड के तहत आने वाली वाली सामाजिक सुरक्षा योजना ईपीएस के आकर्षण को कम करना चाहती है। इस बात की पुष्टि वित्त राज्य मंत्री जयंत सिन्हा ने एक टेलीविजन इंटरव्यू में की है। ईपीएस के पैसे को कैसे खर्च करें, इस पर वित्त मंत्री सलाह दे सकते हैं पर वह खाताधारकों को एनपीएस में निवेश करने के लिए मजबूर नहीं कर सकते।

राजीव जायसवाल
As published in Amar Ujala on Mon Mar 6, 2016

ऋणम कृत्वा, घृतम पिबेत

कर्नाटक के सोमलपुरा में रहने वाले 27 वर्षीय युवा किसान ने पिछले सप्ताह आत्महत्या कर ली। कारण था, कर्ज का बोझ। उसके ऊपर मात्र एक लाख पैंसठ हजार रुपये का बैंक कर्ज था। उसी राज्य के एक उद्योगपति की बात ही कुछ और है। वह करोड़ों के कर्ज में डूबा हुआ है। सरकारी बैंक उसे कर्ज से उबारने के लिए कर्ज देते रहे हैं। उसकी खासियत है कि वह कर्ज वापस नहीं करता है। फिर भी उसकी शान में कोई कमी नहीं है। वह आज भी पार्टियों में बेशुमार दौलत उड़ाता है। बैंकों के बड़े अधिकारी भी उसकी पार्टियों का लुत्फ लेते हैं। कोई उससे कर्ज वसूली की जहमत नहीं उठता है। ऐसे उद्योगपतियों की संख्या हजारों में हैं। अब तक बैंकों ने ऐसे कर्जों पर पर्दा डाल रखा था। यह तो आरबीआई गवर्नर रघुराम राजन के प्रयासों का फल है कि आज बैंकों ने अपनी कुल गैर निष्पादित संपत्ति (एनपीए) की राशि का खुलासा किया है, जो एक लाख साठ हजार करोड़ से भी ज्यादा है। एनपीए के बोझ से सरकारी बैंकों की वित्तीय स्थिति गंभीर हो गई है। अब जरूरत है कि बैंक विलफुल डिफॉल्टर का नाम भी सार्वजनिक करें और उनकी संपत्ति को कुर्क कर कर्ज की वसूली करें।
Published in Amar Ujala, Mon Jan 15, 2016.

Crude Reality

The Modi government would have easily preferred populism over fiscal prudence. It could have drastically reduced petrol and diesel prices by over Rs 11 per litre to gain instant popularity. But, it prefers increasing excise duties while simultaneously reducing retail prices of petrol and diesel. Certainly, this is in the national interest for a country that imports 80% of its crude oil requirement. Global oil prices are unpredictable. Today, it is moving down towards $20 a barrel. The trend may also reverse in no time and it may soar again. We saw this trend in 2008 when crude oil prices touched $147 a barrel in July that year. Finance Minister Arun Jaitely’s excise duty hikes will build a cushion to save the country in such difficult days. Besides, abnormally low fuel prices will encourage consumerism and damage the environment by spurring automobiles sales. This will increase pollution and encourage wastage of scarce energy resources. It is good to use this windfall gain in meeting our revenue deficit rather than encouraging consumerism.
– Rajeev Jayaswal
(Also published in Amar Ujala, Jan 18, 2016,

Domestic Gas Price to Drop Below $4.20 per unit in April: Sarraf

Recently, international oil prices collapsed to a 12-year low and squeezed returns of global energy firms. Most of them have scaled down their exploration activities. But, India’s biggest explorer Oil & Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) looks at it as an opportunity. Prices will bounce back to a reasonable level, hence this is the time to rationalise cost, increase efficiency and build assets says ONGC Chairman & Managing Director Dinesh Kumar Sarraf to Rajeev Jayaswal of Amar Ujala in an exclusive interview. Excerpts:

Q: The fall in global crude oil prices are likely to continue for a longer period. Goldman Sachs had said that prices might drop to even $20 per barrel. Are you a worried?

Ans: Because ONGC is a public sector company, therefore, we see it differently. We see it from the perspective of our country’s economy. We are heavily dependent on imported crude. Hence, it is good that crude oil prices are low. The situation is not worse even from ONGC perspective. The company does not have to bear subsidy burden at all because of low crude oil prices, which is an upside. Our net realisation of $45 (per barrel) has dropped to about $35, a loss of about $10 per barrel revenue. However, losses are high in value added products.

Q. Aren’t you worried?

Ans: Like any company, we are concerned, but not worried. It is better to take a contrarian view to win over it. In difficult time like this we become more innovative and cost conscious. We have reduced our expenses though optimisation and also due o falling cost of services, which is about 40-50% down. Prices will not remain at this level for ever. Meanwhile, we will imbibe the DNA of working with optimum resources so that when prices go up, this culture will remain with us.

Q: When do you think prices will bounce back and what will be the optimum price?

Ans: No one can predict oil prices in definite terms. Optimum is a relative term. For some $200 (per barrel) or even more could be optimum. Ideally, there should be a balance. It should be at the level were oil producers have incentive to produce more and the price should not pinch to consumers. In the Indian context and from the point of view of ONGC, a level between $60-70 per barrel is ideal.

Q: A fall in global crude oil prices would also present opportunities to acquire oil and gas assets abroad. Are you planning to announce some acquisitions in near future?

Ans: We are working in that direction. We are in talks in various countries including Russia. But, acquisitions do not take place on monthly basis. Acquisitions involve lengthy negotiations.

Q: ONGC had accused that Reliance Industries had drawn its gas from its Krishna-Godavari basin blocks. The expert report is also ready. Do you see any amicable solution to this problem?

Ans: The court has asked the government to resolve this matter. The government has appointed a committee. The matter is under its consideration. We will present our views in front of the committee and abide by its decision.

Q: What is the status of discoveries in the Krishna-Godavari basin block where gas has migrated from your field to Reliance’s field? Are these discoveries still viable?

Ans: Only one cluster of discoveries is affected. Other clusters are intact. Development plans have been submitted for cluster II-A, which is gas and II-B, which is oil. We expect approvals by next month. Yes, at the current gas price, these discoveries are not viable.

Q: Have you asked the government for raising gas price to make these discoveries feasible?

Ans: Yes. Without that it will be impossible to develop these discoveries. Gas prices are expected to be further below than the current price of $4.20 per unit when it will be revised in April 2016.

Q: Dehradun is the headquarters of ONGC. Do you plan to shift it to New Delhi?

Ans: Never. It is ONGC headquarters and will remain that way. In fact, we recently constructed a green building in Dehradun. We often have important conferences there. I’m visiting Dehradun on Jan 15-16 for an all India conference. It is a peaceful place that inspires our technical persons and scientists. It is the birth place of ONGC. We consider it as ‘Dev Bhumi’ and we are sentimentally attached with it.

(Also published in Amar Ujala

Modi Invites BP, Shell, Author Yergin and Experts to Revive Oil & Gas Sector

BP Group Chief Executive Bob Dudley, Royal Dutch Shell’s Director (Projects & Technology) Harry Brekelmans, International Energy Agency (IEA) Executive Director Fatih Birol and Pulitzer prize-winning American author Daniel Yergin are visiting India today on a special invite by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. PM wants their expert opinion to revive country’s oil and gas sector that saw a rapid decline since 2009.

Indian energy experts such as former petroleum secretaries Vijay Kelkar and Vivek Rae will also be present in the morning meeting, government and industry sources said. The meeting is expected to continue till lunch. NITI Aayog Vice Chairman & Economist Arvind Panagariya, Finance Minister Arun Jaitely and Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan will also participate in the deliberation. It is expected that NITI Aayog will coordinate the government’s effort to revitalise India’s energy sector. PM Modi is the chairman of the Aayog.

According to sources, Dudley has agreed to attend the meeting on Prime Minister’s personal invitation. BP is the only multinational energy giant to invest in exploration and production of oil and gas in India. In 2011, it invested about $7.2 billion to pick up 30% stake in 23 oil and gas blocks held by Reliance Industries. This also included Reliance’s oil and gas producing fields in KG-D6. Soon after projects of Reliance and BP hit the general policy paralysis that prevailed in the petroleum ministry at that time. Several energy firms including BP and RIL gradually reduced their investment plans in India’s oil and gas sector. As a result, currently RIL and BP hold only four blocks in India that include controversial KG-D6.

Energy experts said that other energy firms such as Cairn India, Eni, Hardy Oil and Gujarat State Petroleum Corporation had also faced several hurdles during the same period. This not only hampered India’s oil and gas exploration but also dissuaded energy companies from investing in Indian sedimentary basin. Due to lack of investors’ interest India could not invite auction for its oil and gas blocks since 2011. The ninth round (Nelp-IX) was unveiled more than five years ago in London when Murli Deora was the oil minister.

(Also published in Amar Ujala, Jan 5, 2016