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An article by Shehzad Poonawala debunked several cover up propaganda myths spread by BJP about the 2002 Gujarat Riots and got taken down. Here is the article.

This article by Shehzad Poonawalla was originally published on DNA as "Mamata Banerjee calls Narendra Modi 'butcher of Gujarat'; here are 9 mythbusters on 2002 post-Godhra riots". It got taken down. Naturally, it finds a home here.

For those who have developed “selective and motivated” amnesia about the truths of 2002 riots in Gujarat and are suddenly buying into the myths being perpetrated by Narendra Modi's PR machinery, here are a few myth-busters to refresh your memory and perhaps your conscience

Narendra Modi surrounded by security and fans

Myth no 1: Post-Godhra violence was brought under control within 2-3 days by Narendra Modi’s government

Truth: “The violence in the state, which was initially claimed to have been brought under control in seventy two hours, persisted in varying degree for over two months, the toll in death and destruction rising with the passage of time.”

Source: Final Order of the National human Rights Commission chaired by the very respected Justice JS Verma, available here

Myth no 2: Gujarat Police acted fairly by taking action against rioters from every side

Truth: “We women thought of going to police and telling the police as in the presence of police, the houses of Muslims were burnt, but the police told us 'to go inside, it is doom's day for Muslims”

Source: PW219 testimony which was admitted as part of Naroda Patya judgment that led to conviction of Mayaben Kodnani, Narendra Modi’s cabinet minister who led murderous mobs during 2002 riots. It is available here.

Myth no 3: No conspiracy by the Gujarat government; post-Godhra violence was a spontaneous reaction

Truth: “A key state minister is reported to have taken over a police control room in Ahmedabad on the first day of the carnage, issuing directions not to rescue Muslims in danger of being killed.”

“Voter lists were also reportedly used to identify and target Muslim community members”

Source: Report of Human Rights Watch, April 2002, Vol. 14, No. 3(C). Available here

Myth no 4: Modi allowed a fair prosecution of those accused in rioting and hence even his cabinet colleague Mayaben Kodnani was convicted

Truth: “The modern day 'Neros' were looking elsewhere when Best Bakery and innocent children and helpless women were burning, and were probably deliberating how the perpetrators of the crime can be saved or protected.”

“Law and justice become flies in the hands of these “wanton boys”. When fences start to swallow the crops, no scope will be left for survival of law and order or truth and justice. Public order as well as public interest become martyrs and monuments.”

“From the facts stated above, it appears that accused wants to frustrate the prosecution by unjustified means and it appears that by one way or the other the Addl. Sessions Judge as well as the APP (Shri Raghuvir Pandya, the public prosecutor in this case at the time was a member of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and contested elections from Ward 20, Vadodara in the 1996 Corporation Elections on a BJP ticket!) have not taken any interest in discharge of their duties.”

Source: Supreme Court in Zahira Habibulla H Sheikh And Anr vs State Of Gujarat And Ors on 12 April, 2004 CASE NO.: Appeal (crl.) 446-449 of 2004. Available here

Myth no 5: Narendra Modi never justified post-Godhra killings

Truth: “Responding to queries regarding various statements attributed to him by the media, Mr Modi denied citing Newton’s law. Nor had he spoken of “action-reaction”; he had wanted neither the action (at Godhra) nor the subsequent reaction. When we cited footage in Zee to the contrary (Annexure 4A), there was no reaction from Mr Modi”

Source: Editors Guild Fact Finding Mission Report dated 2002. Available here

Myth no 6: Narendra Modi speaks only about development in his speeches. Even after 2002 riots, his speeches were never laced with communal poison

Truth: Narendra Modi’s reported speech: “For several months, the opposition has been after me to resign. When I did, they did not know what to do and started running to Delhi to seek Madam's help. They realised that James Michael Lyngdoh, the Election Commissioner of India, is their only saviour.Some journalists asked me recently, ''Has James Michael Lyngdoh come from Italy?'' I said I don't have his janam patri, I will have to ask Rajiv Gandhi. Then the journalists said, ''Do they meet in church?''. I replied, ''Maybe they do.'' James Michael Lyngdoh came and visited Ahmedabad and Vadodara. And then he used asabhya basha (indecent language) with the officials. Gujaratis can never use such language because our rich cultural heritage does not permit it. Then he gave a fatwa ordering that the elections can't be held. I want to ask him: he has come to this conclusion after meeting only members of the minority community. Are only minority community members citizens of India? Are majority community members not citizens of this country? Is the constitutional body meant only for the minority community? Did he ever bother to meet the relatives of those killed in the Godhra carnage? Why didn't he meet them? Why didn't he ask them whether the situation was conducive for polls? Why? James Michael Lyngdoh ( says it slowly with emphasis on Michael), the people of Gujarat are posing a question to you.”

Source: Reported speech of Narendra Modi, September 30, 2002. Available here

Myth no 7: Narendra Modi never applied for a US Visa (when it came to light that he was denied one)

Truth: “The Chief Minister of Gujarat state, Mr. Narendra Modi, applied for a diplomatic visa to visit the United States. On March 18, 2005, the United States Department of State denied Mr. Modi this visa under section 214 (b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act because he was not coming for a purpose that qualified for a diplomatic visa. Modi's existing tourist/business visa was also revoked under section 212 (a) (2) (g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. Section 212 (a) (2) (g) makes any foreign government official who "was responsible for or directly carried out, at any time, particularly severe violations of religious freedom" ineligible for a visa to the United States. The Ministry of External Affairs requested that the Department of State review the decision to revoke his tourist/business visa. Upon review, the State Department re-affirmed the original decision.” This decision applies to Narendra Modi only. It is based on the fact that, as head of the State government in Gujarat between February 2002 and May 2002, he was responsible for the performance of state institutions at that time. The State Department's detailed views on this matter are included in its annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices and the International Religious Freedom Report. Both reports document the violence in Gujarat from February 2002 to May 2002 and cite the Indian National Human Rights Commission report, which states there was "a comprehensive failure on the part of the state government to control the persistent violation of rights of life, liberty, equality, and dignity of the people of the state."

Source: Statement by David C. Mulford, US Ambassador to India, March 21, 2005. Available here

Myth no 8: Vajpayee never asked Modi to observe “Rajdharma”, did not rap him for 2002 riots

Truth: “In comments which appeared to back criticism of the state authorities, Mr Vajpayee said he would speak to political leaders about allegations that they had failed to do their job. "Government officials, political leaders, need to respond to the task. The constitution guarantees equal rights for all," he said.The state government is controlled by the BJP, and the Chief Minister, Narendra Modi, has come in for particular attack over the way the authorities reacted to the violence. At the Shah Alam camp in Gujarat's commercial capital, Ahmedabad, Mr Vajpayee said that the Godhra attack was "condemnable" but what followed was "madness". "The answer to madness is not madness," he said in an emotional speech."The duty of our government is to protect the property, life and honour of everybody... there is no scope for discrimination," he said in an apparent reference to allegations that local officials had turned a blind eye to the killings.”

Source: Vajpayee says riots “shameful” – BBC News report April 4th 2002. Available here

Myth no 9: It's not sheer opportunism that well-known Modi-baiters like Smriti Irani, have today become his cheerleaders

Truth: "Smriti Irani who unsuccessfully contested from Delhi's Muslim-dominated Chandni Chowk constituency in the April-May parliamentary elections, blamed Modi for BJP's recent electoral reverses. "Whenever people mention Gujarat they only talk about the riots and try to corner the Gujaratis on the issue. So, in order to maintain the respect that I have for Atalji and the BJP, I won't hesitate to take this step( of going on a fast to seek Modi's removal) ," she said."

Source: Times of India report dated December 12, 2004. Available here

These myth-busters took me just one hour to compile. So it's quite surprising that none of the stalwarts who interviewed Modi, (some of whom saw the events of 2002 unfold in front of their very own eyes), never counter-questioned him further and exposed the glaring gaps in his "rebuffed" narrative. Much like Smriti Irani, I guess, each night they must be saying to themselves "Hey Ram"....

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What is the Reliance Gas Price issue? Why has Arvind Kejriwal filed an FIR against Mukesh Ambani? Why is there so little clear information on the issue? Read the easy to understand version.

What is the Reliance Gas Price issue?

To put it in one line, it is an objection to higher pricing for natural gas which has little justification and has been brought about through unclear reasoning.

What is the complete story of Reliance Gas Scam?

After the Government of India opened up hydrocarbon exploration and prodution to private and foreign players in 1991, Reliance Industries got the rights to explore the D6 block as per NELP (New Exploration and Licening policy). Here, Reliance Industries discovered India's biggest gas reserves in the Krishna Godavari basin near the Andhra coast and the site is called Dhirubai 6 (which is where the "KG D6 basin" come from, in news related with this subject). The size of the block is 7,645 square kilometers and is officially recorded as KG-DWN-98/1.

The D6 was to produce 40 million MMSCD (Million Cubic meters per day), which was revised to 80 MMSCD. Initial development cost at $2.4 billion was revised through an “addendum” in 2006 to $5.2 billion in the first phase and $3.3 billion in the second phase.

When Reliance Industries split between Mukesh Ambani and Anil Ambani, a secret pact between the Ambani brothers became public. Anil Ambani owned RNRL (Reliance Natural Resources Ltd) claimed it had rights to gas from Reliance KG basin for 17 years at $2.34 per mmBtu (million British thermal unit). The Supreme Court finally settled the matter by asserting that ‘the government owns the gas till it reaches its ultimate consumer and parties must restrict their negotiation within the conditions of the government policy’.

None of the ministries involved in the process, including the oil ministry, raised the point that the gas reserves belonged to the country and was not a property of the Ambani family. Even the Prime Minister, ManMohan Singh meekly requested the brothers to settle their differences in the interests of the country.

The CAG Draft Report on the audit of the Production Sharing Contracts for the on-shore and off-shore oil and gas blocks showed that the Directorate General of Hydrocarbons (DGH) allowed Reliance Industries and other private operators to "gold-plate" the capital costs and make huge profits using an "Investment Multiplier", which meant that higher the capital cost, the larger the share of the profits of the private parties. If the cost is inflated enough and the supply of gas dwindles before it is recovered (the quantity cannot be ascertained, as the appraisal wasn't done), the government profit will mostly be "thenga", while Reliance "recovers" its invented investments.

Till the the capital costs are recovered, 90% of the petroleum/gas sold would be “cost” petroleum (covering Government royalty of 5%, operating costs, the costs of exploration, and the development cost of producing gas) and only 10% would be “profit” petroleum and Reliance gets the major share of the “profit” petroleum. The "Investment Multiplier" begins to increase (and thus the Government's share) only after Reliance Industries has recovered most of its investment.

So increasing the profit share for private parties and decreasing government share was as simple as pouring in funds well beyond those stated in initial bid. Increasing capital costs helps Reliance retain a much larger share of the profits in the initial years, while the Government gets its share only in the last phase, when the production declines.

The capital costs in KG Basin D-6 Block went up from $2.4 billion in the initial contract to $8.5 billion. This is not possible without the government cronyism allowing it and there lies the  KG basin gas scam. In the case of KG D9 basin, the Management Committee in which the Government had 2 nominees allowed the inflation of contracts.

The CAG Draft Report also brought out that if the company did not develop certain areas within the contracted area within the stipulated time, 25% of the area outside that discovered in 2004 and 2004 should have been relinquished. Instead, the DGH and the Ministry of Petroleum allowed the whole area to be designated as “discovery area” in violation of the contract. Actual amount of gas available was obfuscated by digging inadequate wells, and moving directly to commercial production without intermediate appraisal.

Add to this the high price of Reliance gas -- $4.2 per Million BTU (MBTU), fixed by the Empowered Group of Ministers headed by Pranab Mukherjee even when Reliance had admitted in Court that its production cost was $1.43 per MBTU and agreed to to supply gas at $2.34 to both NTPC and Anil Ambani Group, still making a profit of 50% (at this point, ONGC was supplying gas for half the price and gas production had not started in KG basin). Pranabda's Empowered Group of Ministers let him renege on this and demand $4.2 per MBTU, because he could not now supply gas for less than the "mandated price" set by the government" (No gas was coming out of the KG Basin still). Ministers may be "Empowered", but on behalf of whom were they acting?

So Reliance profits from every side

  • By over invoicing the capital costs paid to own affiliates without oversight, it makes substantial profits directly
  • By inflating project cost, it continues to get a larger share of profits for an additional time till the "investments" from are recovered.
  • Selling gas at multiple times the real cost (of which it retains a major chunk as "recovering investment")

In the meanwhile, fuel prices influence every aspect of life in terms of affordability and they are set to rise AGAIN. For the common man, this basically means "khaya piya kuch nahi, glass toda barah anna" only to find out that the broken glass has been kept there to con people into paying for breaking it.

The open letter by Surya P Sethi to the prime minister on the Rangarajan formula doubling the price of KG basin gas minces no words.

The Comptroller and Auditor General's findings and other independent reports reveal how crony capitalism benefited RIL. The pre-qualification norms were diluted to ensure RIL qualified. The claimed size of gas discoveries, the field development plans and the investment outlays proposed escaped rigorous due diligence. Above all, RIL's commitments under the PSC and the field development plans were not enforced.

RIL's clout was on full display when, despite serious objections from me and the then Cabinet Secretary, the 2007 Empowered Group of Ministers approved the price of $4.20 per million metric British Thermal Units (MMBTU) based on an RIL-crafted formula that was unique in the world for pricing natural gas. The $2.34/MMBTU bid by RIL, in a global tender, for the same gas was ignored. A sham price discovery exercise was permitted to justify the higher price that the approved formula delivered.

And Moily & Co have approved yet another price hike that doubles the price of gas from 1st April onwards. So, from $4.2 per unit, Reliance will sell for $8.4 per unit.

Why has Arvind Kejriwal filed an FIR against Mukesh Ambani?

Arvind Kejriwal cannot overrule the Central Government match fixing permissions and prices and such to suit their cronies (or is it puppet masters?), but he has done something that will add pressure to bring about accountability on thKG Basin gas price scam. He has filed an FIR for cheating against Mukesh Ambani, Moily and others for what is becoming known as the Mukesh Ambani gas scam. In particular, he is trying to stall the new price hike from April onwards.

Considering that the whole scam appears to be somewhat legal with "lapses", it is unclear how he can win the case, particularly with the two biggest political parties and media out to defend Mukesh Ambani, but it will pave the way for more serious actions by forcing the issue into more attention.

A country cannot afford to abandon national interest in the energy sector so lightly and still expect to thrive.

Why is there so little clear information or discussion on the issue?

Ambani owns controlling shares in 27 media and news channels. Vajpayee's son-in-law Ranjan Bhattacharya told Nira Radia (Radia tapes scandal) that Mukesh Ambani told him “Congress to ab apni dukaan hai.”. Mukesh Ambani and Narendra Modi hugged onstage in last year's Vibrant Gujarat and Akash Ambani attended Modi's rally in Mumbai. It is the Congress that has helped engineer the windfall in the first place. Not to mention when Arvind Kejriwal in November 2012 made these accusations, Mukesh Ambani lawyers sent notices to media organizations for airing them. What do you expect?

Please note that I am no economist, journalist, analyst or similar. I am a blogger with interest in issues of relevance to the common man of India and I seek information to understand what is happening. If there are any inaccuracies, please point them out in the comments and I will correct them.