“We want to boost private investment in oil industry”
INTERVIEW WITH MR DHARMENDRA PRADHAN, MINISTER OF STATE (INDEPENDENT CHARGE), MINISTRY OF PETROLEUM AND NATURAL GAS
As Mr Dharmendra Pradhan goes about swiftly meeting with dozens of people at his house in the morning hours, with hundreds more waiting eagerly for an audience, one thing becomes clear—he is very much a part of the BJP’s A Team that has been pressed into service to strengthen the party politically and administratively in the short and medium term. In general, he is more action, than talk. As is amply evident, this 46-year-old Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Petroleum and Natural Gas prefers to keep a reasonably low profile, and barring the odd interview, or the occasional press briefing, he is not seen or heard giving too many sound bytes to the Media. The high-profile ministry that he heads boasts of directly overseeing the activities of among others, three of India’s top 7 public sector undertakings—known popularly as Maharatnas, a testimony to the importance attached by the BJP to Mr Pradhan’s young shoulders. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, of course, also expects him to strengthen the BJP in Odisha, a state from which Mr Pradhan won the 14th Lok Sabha elections. Currently, though, apart from his regular ministerial work, it is Bihar that is keeping him pretty much occupied. A Rajya Sabha MP from the state, Mr Pradhan is seen running a hectic schedule as Bihar goes into election mode, and BJP tries desperately to wrest back the initiative in the state after the fallout with Nitish Kumar. He is co-incharge of elections in Bihar. Prior to joining the NDA Government, Mr Pradhan has, at various points, overseen elections for his party in Karnataka, Jharkhand, Uttarakhand and Chhatisgarh. He opens up to India Empire’s Editor Sayantan Chakravarty on matters concerning his Ministry
What is your vision for the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas?
In the long term we would like to boost domestic production. Presently we import about 75 per cent of our requirement of crude oil. There are plans to cut down on this import so that we can save the country valuable foreign exchange. But in order to augment and step up domestic production, plenty of exploratory activities need to be taken up. Production capacity has to be doubled. Plenty of additional infrastructure must be put in place. Geology in India needs new techniques and cutting edge technology. Besides, we are also focusing on conservation and production of alternative fuels. That means we are diversifying the energy consumption basket across sectors by trying to introduce more biogas, bio-diesel and ethanol. These are some of the key innovations, and new areas that need to be well planned and executed in the near future.