Reliance is the ‘government’ in India

There are two types of people in the government- friends of Reliance and servants of Reliance. These were the words of a government official after failing to resist the lobbying pressure by Reliance. 

          If one is keenly watching the post liberalization corporate history of the country, Reliance’s mighty influence may be felt both surprising and agonizing. Never forget that the Prime Minister of India has mediated the feud between the two brothers- Mukesh and Anil.

          Reliance is known for unethical corporate practices- worse than what Neera Radia can tell you. For example, the entry of Reliance into the Telecom industry is quite infamous. Reliance Communications, in 2003, sold the walkie talkie technology of WLL phone to the mobile phone subscribers to escape license fees and to claim subsidies under the USO fund. During that time providing WLL technology phone was eligible for government subsidy as it was poor man’s technology. Not just that benefit, RCom saved nearly 2000 crores rupees of license fees by giving WLL mobile phone to the subscribers. In a later development, the TDSAT (Telecom Dispute Appellete Tribunal), after receiving complaint from competitors has imposed a penalty of nearly 2000 crores Rupees on RCom in 2003.

          In the recent coal scam, the real beneficiary of coal allocation was the Reliance Industries, but the media was afraid to name the company as it is one of the largest advertisers in the country. Under the Sasan UMPP project, the government has transferred two coal fields- Moher and Moher Amlori Extension. The two coal fields were the property of the public sector National Coal Limited which was a subsidiary of Coal India Limited. But later, the government has also given Chhatrasal coal mine to Reliance which attracted the wrath of the CAG. The government also has allocated around 900 hectares of land near to the Sasan to Reliance, which was previously part of the Coal India Limited’s assets(there was similar gesture to Tata energy as well to avoid discrimination). Reliance started the mining of the land without the completion of the transfer procedure.

          Who can disclaim that the recent cabinet reshuffle was to dispose Jaipal Reddy from oil ministry. Two days after his removal, the oil ministry has postponed a critical audit at the Reliance’s D6 operations. The proposed audit was a nuisance for Reliance. In the past, Deora was accused of being a fanatic servant of Reliance business family, whereas Mani Sankar Iyer and Jaipal Reddy were not. Iyer was removed from the ministry when he tried to go along with the TAPI project and the India- Iran- Pakistan gas pipe line project which aimed to import gas from overseas rather than giving monopoly situation to the Reliance’s gas supply. Mani Sanker Iyer was removed immediately when the project got momentum.

          Reliance is quite successful in its management of the media to survive in case of a backlash. Time has proved that. They have purchased CNBC TV 18 to air their voice amidst alarm about unethical corporate intervention in media.

          There may be a handful of people who can speak against the Reliance, but they are neither in the ruling front nor in the opposition. Arvind Kejriwal belongs to this handful group at least for the time being, because he wasn’t in power and is not in power.