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Sonia has one,PM has one,now Reddy wants his petro school

Petroleum Minister Reddy is pushing for the third centre of the RGIPT in south India.

Written by Amitav Ranjan | New Delhi | Published: April 17, 2012 2:50:22 am

Congress president Sonia Gandhi has one. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has announced another. Now Petroleum Minister S Jaipal Reddy wants the third one: a petroleum institute in his electoral constituency that would be funded by cash-strapped state-run oil companies.

Reddy is pushing for the third centre of the Rajiv Gandhi Institute for Petroleum Technology (RGIPT) in south India despite being aware that work on the first two in Rae Bareli (Sonia’s Lok Sabha constituency) and Sibsagar (in PM’s Rajya Sabha Assam constituency) is sputtering in the face of financial constraints.

Sources said that at an “informal” meeting on February 4,Reddy told consultants Price WaterhouseCoopers,in the presence of RGIPT officials,to consider a centre around Hyderabad. Last month,PWC recommended a fire-fighting college near Hyderabad,40 km from Reddy’s constituency Chevella.

The feasibility report,said sources,proposes a 100-acre campus estimated at Rs 300 crore. “The report was accepted by RGIPT board last month with the suggestion that the campus area be increased to 200 acres to accommodate large petroleum tanks and dispensing installations for mock fire drills…But the key issue is finance,” said an official.

Of the Rs 435 crore initially estimated for the Rae Bareli centre,the UPA pledged Rs 285 crore with the balance to come from Oil Industry Development Board. The annual running expense of Rs 260.58 crore is to be partially met through interest from a Rs 250-crore Endowment Fund contributed by PSUs Indian Oil Corp,GAIL India,Hindustan Petroleum,Oil India Ltd,Oil & Natural Gas Corp and Bharat Petroleum.

At present,RGPIT operates in a makeshift campus offering four-year B.Tech degrees in chemical (35 seats) and petroleum engineering (40 seats) and 10 seats for a two-year M.Tech in petroleum engineering,along with an MBA in energy management.

With project cost nearly doubling to Rs 735 crore,the Petroleum Ministry plans to rope in these oil firms for the extra burden as the Finance Ministry has refused to spare another penny. That has affected the progress of the “institute of national importance” since work started in October 2010.

The snail’s pace of work is best depicted by its overall progress: 26 percent in end-April 2011,27 percent end-September 2011 and 29 percent as on January 31,2012 as against the targeted 92.4 percent. Coupled with the difficulty in getting additional land from Uttar Pradesh government,the RGIPT has halved student enrollment to 1,200 with campus size limited 47.8 acres from the planned 122.8 acres.

The centre at Sibsagar in Assam,which has been Manmohan Singh’s Rajya Sabha constituency since 1991,is in a similar boat. Its initial estimated cost was pruned from Rs 330 crore to Rs 217 crore and funding offloaded entirely on the oil industry with OIDB paying Rs 141 crore towards capital expenditure and oil PSUs — ONGC,GAIL,OIL,IOC,Engineers India Ltd and Numaligarh Refineries Ltd — giving Rs 76 crore.

More than a year after its foundation stone was laid by the PM in February 2011,the only work that has started is landfill from January 6,2012. The campus with 400 students is scheduled to become active from September 2013.

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