Plea to regain NRL shares
Assam finance minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Saturday urged Union petroleum and natural gas minister Dharmendra Pradhan to help the state buy back 16 per cent share of the Numaligarh Refinery Limited.
Sarma made the request at a meeting organised to give Ranjeet Kumar Dass another term as state BJP president. Pradhan was in the meeting.
“Pradhanji I have a request. The Assam government earlier had 26 per cent stake in the NRL. The Congress government had sold off its 16 per cent share to the Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL). I implore you to help us buy it back. For this purpose, we will invest the required Rs 1,800 crore,” Sarma said, adding that the state finance department has earmarked Rs 2,000 crore to buy back the 16 per cent share.
He also said that the state government wants to secure the Rs 8,000 crore oil royalty that Assam received in instalments from the Centre after Narendra Modi became the Prime Minister for the future of the state.
NRL had grabbed headlines a few months ago following the Centre’s reported move to disinvest BPCL, which holds 61.65 per cent share in NRL. Later, the Centre assured that BPCL would be disinvested excluding NRL.
“The Assam chief secretary will approach the Centre tomorrow or the day after with a proposal in this regard. You (Pradhan) have done a lot for Assam. Please return us the share which was sold off by the Congress government,” he said, adding that if done, this would be recognised as a huge contribution of the BJP to the state in future.
Sarma said as of now NRL is a profit-making sector because of excise duty concessions by the Centre. “It needs to give only 50 per cent of the excise duty. The profit of NRL means excise duty concession. If NRL is forced to pay the entire excise duty, its profit will come down to only Rs 100 crore a year,” he said.
NRL’s profit after tax was Rs 2,100 crore in 2016-17, Rs 2,044 crore in 2017-18 and Rs 1,968 crore in 2018-19.
Sarma thanked the Centre for its efforts to increase the NRL’s refining capacity from three to nine million tonnes.