March 26, 2023


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Kitaab interview with Paranjoy Guha Thakurta: Gas Wars and Crony Capitalism in India

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paranjoyIt is the time for parliamentary elections in India and three books, coming in a succession, have rattled the establishment in the country. These three controversial books are: “The Accidental Prime Minster – The Making and Unmaking of Manmohan Singh”, “Crusader or Conspirator? Coalgate and other Truths” and “Gas Wars – Crony Capitalism And The Ambanis”.

A day after veteran journalist Paranjoy Guha Thakurta’s book, Gas Wars – Crony Capitalism and Ambanis,  was launched in Delhi on April 15, 2014, Reliance Industries, one of India’s top corporate houses, sent a legal notice to the authors of the book (Guha Thakurta, Subir Ghosh and Jyotirmoy Chaudhuri). According to media reports, ‘RIL wants all existing copies – hard copy and online versions – of the book which it refers to as a “pamphlet” to be destroyed and any further publication, distribution or circulation to be stopped. RIL also wants all the publicity material about the book to be destroyed and has demanded an “unconditional public apology…in the form and manner acceptable” to RIL for “having published and disseminated false and grossly defamatory material” against Reliance’.

Legal notice has been sent to Authors Upfront and FEEl Books Private Ltd, the e-book publisher and distributors of the book, Flipkart and for “acting as electronic distributors” of the book.

Kitaab’s Zafar Anjum got in touch with Paranjoy Guha Thakurta to know more about Gas Wars, the research behind the book, and how the legal tangle has affected the book and its authors and publishers.

Why was it important for you and your co-writers to work on a book like ‘Gas Wars’?

gas_warsMy co-authors and I have for some years now been extremely concerned about the manner in which India’s natural resources have been allocated and valued. These resources include land, telecommunications spectrum, coal, iron ore or natural gas extracted from the basin of the Bay of Bengal off the south-eastern coast of the country along the basin of two great rivers, the Krishna and the Godavari. The non-transparent and often arbitrary manner in which natural resources have been given access to, and priced, has resulted in many allegations of corruption and cronyism being levelled against those in positions of power and authority in India over the recent past. This book inter alia seeks to lay bare the manner in which official contracts are structured to allow enough room for the government to be cheated of revenue and the country’s natural resources to be siphoned off with impunity. The Indian government’s role in the still-continuing controversies over the utilisation and pricing of Krishna-Godavari gas is one among many instances of ruthless exploitation of natural resources in different parts of the country and in the world. The book delineates the manner in which a corporate conglomerate, in this case India’s largest, was able to benefit from the way government policies are structured and which fall into a pattern that epitomizes the rise of the Reliance group over the years.

Our opinions can be better summarised through the views of retired Justice Sudershan B. Reddy of the Supreme Court of India (which have been quoted in the book) who had the following to state in his 7 May 2010 judgement relating to a dispute between the two Ambani siblings:

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