Srinagar: Union Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas Hardeep Singh Puri Monday said that the Srinagar-Bathinda gas pipeline was now being constructed and would shortly link Jammu and Kashmir with the National Gas Grid and considerably reduce the LPG prices in J&K.
In an exclusive interview with Greater Kashmir Consulting Editor, Emaad Makhdoomi, the union minister said that the Srinagar-Bathinda gas pipeline was a “work in progress”.
Puri, a 1974 batch Indian Foreign Service (IFS) officer served as the Permanent Representative of India to the United Nations from 2009 to 2013, as the chairman of the United Nations Security Council's Counter-Terrorism Committee from January 2011 to February 2013, and joined International Peace Institute as a senior advisor in June 2013.
“Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board (PNGRB) is inviting bids for Gurdaspur to Jammu Natural Gas Pipeline which will connect J&K with the National Gas Grid. During the 11th City Gas Distribution (CGD) bidding round, Jammu, Udhampur, Reasi, Samba and Kathua districts geographical area have been authorised to Indian Oil Corporation Limited (IOCL),” Puri said.
He said that certain issues were being worked out.
“In the year 2014, the total gas pipeline across India was 14,000 km. We have set a target to cover a total of 33,500 km of which the gas pipeline is spread to 22,500 km,” Puri said. “I have almost no doubt the pace at which we are working and after the pipeline reaches J&K, the cost of LPG will come down here, and people will be no longer vulnerable to transportation difficulties.”
He said that hilly areas might not be accessible due to rainfall but the issue would be redressed.
“However, shortage due to logistics has been minimal,” Puri said. “Even at the height of supply disturbance across the world due to a conflict in a part of the world, there was no problem across India, not even in the northeast. We have been able to establish a supply chain across the domestic markets.”
About the proposal to open CNG outlets in J&K, the Union Minister said: “We are opening CNG outlets everywhere. We are looking at the overall situation. We are going fast in biofuels. A total of 5 million barrels a day of crude are imported. Our exploration of production is expanding. Our utilisation in biofuels expanded from 1.4 percent to 10 percent. We have set a target of expanding it by 20 percent in 2023.”
He said that a lot of cars move on CNG, but the problem was international prices went high.
“The CNG advantage is efficient. CNG will do very well. A total of 14 lakh domestic PNG connections and 121 CNG outlets will come to J&K in the next 8 years,” he said.
Puri said that post-removal of Article 370 there had been a visible change on the ground in Kashmir. “Look at civil aviation. Earlier, there was a footfall of 32,000 to 40,000 at the Srinagar Airport. It reached 1.20 lakh in May.
Article 370 effectively circumscribed and choked the development of J&K. Now the entire focus is on development,” he said. “After 2019, there is not only a difference between the past and the present but it has also been properly established. A total of 112 flights are operating from Srinagar Airport with 32 flights operating daily. The government of J&K has reduced the ATF tax rate as a result of the improvement in planes landing and refueling in Srinagar. With the development in infrastructure and parking space, over 200 planes will run from Srinagar Airport in the next few years.”
Puri said that compared to other international tourist locations around the world Kashmir was unmatched.
“People are investing now and development is taking place that will increase Kashmir’s potential even more,” he said.