Current Affairs

Corporate spies in the corridors of power

Corporate spies in the corridors of power

  • On the night of February 18, officers of the Delhi Police, who had prior information about an espionage network, kept a watch on three persons coming in an Indigo car to Shastri Bhavan. Two persons got down and the third remained inside. After about two hours, when the duo returned to the car, all three of them were caught for stealing photocopies of classified documents of the Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas (MoPNG).
  • Many persons have been arrested by the Delhi Police in the case of leaking confidential documents of the MoPNG. They include two former multitasking staffers of the MoPNG, three middlemen, Ishwar Singh, Raj Kumar Chaubey and Asharam, an employee in the MoPNG who let his sons Lalta Prasad and Rakesh Kumar enter into office using fake entry cards which they had procured for Rs.4,000 each; and used to switch off CCTV cameras, two energy consultants, Santanu Saikia, a former journalist, who runs a Web portal called IndianPetro.com, and Prayas Jain, CEO of an oil and gas consultancy, Metis India.
  • Five corporate executives—Shailesh Saxena, manager, corporate affairs, Reliance Industries Limited; Subhash Chandra, senior executive, Jubilant Energy; Rishi Anand, deputy general manager, Reliance Power (Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group); Vinay Kumar of Essar; and K.K. Naik, general manager, Cairn India—were also in the net.
  • Some of the documents recovered were indeed significant: input material on national grid for inclusion in the Finance Minister’s Budget Speech 2015-16; documents of an urgent meeting of the MoPNG dated February 13, 2015; documents forwarded by the Prime Minister’s Office; papers of the Petroleum Planning and Analysis Cell with the heading “Monthly Gas Report of December 2014” dated February 16, 2015; documents of the Exploration Division, MoPNG, with the front page signed by Deputy Secretary Nalin Kumar Srivastava along with a background note; and documents of a presentation to the Secretary, MoPNG, about ONGC Videsh Limited, the international petroleum company of India, dated February 16, 2015.
  • Highly placed sources described the ways in which big corporates had gained control over the functioning of the Ministry. They also interfered in the appointment of officials, placed officials on their payroll, and set up sources at various levels to obtain government documents.
  • An impeccable source further said that a particular business house even manipulated the appointment of Secretaries and Joint Secretaries. In fact, it is widely believed that the removal of Mani Shankar Aiyar and S. Jaipal Reddy as Cabinet Ministers of the MoPNG during the United Progressive Alliance’s first term in power (2004-2009) was a direct result of its intervention; they were replaced by Ministers who were friendly to that house. Mani Shankar Aiyar was replaced by Murli Deora and Jaipal Reddy was replaced by M. Veerappa Moily.
  • In June 2014, ONGC approached the Delhi High Court accusing RIL of theft of natural gas from its Bay of Bengal block. It has been alleged in ONGC’s petition that RIL had pumped about 18 billion cubic metres of gas worth Rs.30,000 crore from ONGC’s reservoir close to the common boundary of the blocks in the Krishna-Godavari basin beginning 2009. In August 2014, the MoPNG, in an affidavit filed in the Delhi High Court, pleaded for the rejection of the petition filed by ONGC and termed it “frivolous”.
  • The investigation into the corporate espionage case has amply demonstrated the extent of penetration of corporate malpractices in institutions of governance. It has brought out into the public domain what was until now in the realm of hearsay and conjecture. The hold of corporates on the political class is deeply entrenched. The leakage of confidential documents from a Ministry is just the tip of the iceberg.

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