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The Hindu Editorial Analysis | PDF Download

Date: 16 April 2019
  • Indian Oil Corporation Limited (IOCL), commonly known as IndianOil is an Indian state owned oil and gas company with registered office at Mumbai and primarily headquartered in New Delhi
  • In May 2018, IOC become India's most profitable state-owned company for the second consecutive year, with a record profit of ₹21,346 crore in 2017-18, followed by Oil and Natural Gas Corporation, whose profit stood at ₹19,945 crore
  •  Indian Oil accounts for nearly half of India's petroleum products market share, 35% national refining capacity (together with its subsidiary Chennai Petroleum Corporation Ltd., or CPCL), and 71% downstream sector pipelines through capacity.
  • The Indian Oil Group owns and operates 11 of India's 23 refineries with a combined refining capacity of 80.7 MMTPA (million metric tonnes per annum).
  • Barauni Refinery
  • Bongaigaon Refinery
  • CPCL, Chennai
  • CPCL, Narimanam
  • Digboi Refinery
  • Guwahati Refinery
  • Haldia Refinery
  • Koyali Refinery
  • Mathura Refinery
  • Panipat Refinery
  • Paradip Refinery
  • Foreign subsidiaries
  • IndianOil (Mauritius) Ltd.
  • Lanka IOC PLC
  • IOC Middle East FZE
  • The oil and gas industry is usually divided into three major sectors: upstream (or exploration and productionE&P), midstream and downstream.
  • The upstream sector includes searching for potential underground or underwater crude oil and natural gas fields, drilling exploratory wells, and subsequently drilling and operating the wells that recover and bring the crude oil or raw natural gas to the surface.
  • The downstream sector is the refining of petroleum crude oil and the processing and purifying of raw natural gas, as well as the marketing and distribution of products derived from crude oil and natural gas.
  • The downstream sector reaches consumers through products such as gasoline or petrol, kerosene, jet fuel, diesel oil, heating oil, fuel oils, lubricants, waxes, asphalt, natural gas, and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) as well as hundreds of petrochemicals.
  • Midstream operations are often included in the downstream category and are considered to be a part of the downstream sector.

Weathervane of democracy

  • The Election Commission’s weakening commitment to the Model Code of Conduct is cause for concern
  • For the first time since the general election of 1996, the reputation of the Election Commission of India (ECI) has taken a beating. Subsequent to the 1996 election, which marked a turning point in the reduction of electoral malpractices, surveys showed that trust in the ECI was the highest among the major public institutions in India. However, there are now perceptions that the ECI has responded inadequately, or not at all, to violations of the Model Code of Conduct (MCC), which is in effect from March 10 to May 23. Some examples in this election include the Prime Minister’s announcement on national television of India’s first anti-satellite weapon test, the Rajasthan Governor making statements in favour of the ruling party, leaders of the ruling party invoking the Indian Army in their election campaign, and, in a spate of dubious media initiatives, a continuous line of statements along communal lines.
  • The MCC, like the ECI itself, is a unique Indian innovation and encapsulates an important story about democracy in India — the conduct of free and fair elections. Though just a brief set of guidelines, not law, the MCC is a powerful instrument. It comes into force when the ECI announces election dates and comprises directions to government functionaries, political parties and candidates aimed at an impartial election process.
  • Important provisions include barring governments from making policy announcements to sway voters and restraining political actors from inciting hatred against any group, or bribing or intimidating voters.
  • Down the years
  • The origins of the MCC lie in the Assembly elections of Kerala in 1960, when the State administration prepared a ‘Code of Conduct’ for political actors. The leading political parties of the State voluntarily approved the code, which proved useful during the elections.
  • Subsequently, in the Lok Sabha elections in 1962, the ECI circulated the code to all recognised political parties and State governments; reports were that it was generally followed. The emergence of the code and its voluntary acceptance by political parties showed the commitment of the political elite to the holding of free and fair elections.
  • However, from 1967 till 1991, as political competition intensified, political actors began to resort to corrupt electoral practices. Governments made populist announcements on the eve of elections, had pliant officials in key positions while intimidation of voters and booth capturing increased. The ECI’s appeals to observe the code of conduct were largely ignored. The ECI now resorted to a familiar, but ineffective, strategy in Indian public life. It refined the code, making it more stringent by including a section about the misuse of powers by ruling parties and renamed it the MCC. Though it demanded that the MCC be incorporated in the law, no such law could be passed.
  • A Turning Point
  • After 1991, the ECI used new means to enforce the MCC. The then-Chief Election Commissioner, T.N. Seshan rebuked prominent political actors publicly and even postponed elections, thereby re-interpreting the ECI’s power to fix election dates. The burgeoning electronic media of the time reported these initiatives with enthusiasm, while candidates were happy to capitalise on the mistakes made by their rivals. Consequently, political actors began to take the MCC seriously, fearing it even if they did not respect it. The MCC now countered the lack of commitment of the political class to free and fair elections, the ECI began to command a new respect and electoral malpractices declined dramatically.
  • New Flashpoints
  • Today, the MCC is at a crossroads, as is the ECI. Two distinct trends are visible. One, electoral malpractice has appeared in new forms. Voter bribery and manipulation through the media have become the techniques of unethically influencing voters in place of voter intimidation and booth capturing. These malpractices are harder to stem. Booth-capturing is an identifiable event, taking place at a particular time and place. Voter bribery is spread over time and space. Voters resent being intimidated and are likely to cooperate with authorities in preventing it, but may be willing to be bribed. The misuse of the media is difficult to trace to specific political parties and candidates.
  • The ECI’s response to the new challenges has been inadequate. It has appointed expenditure observers, evolved a code for social media, and, very recently, after a spate of criticism, stopped the release of biographical pictures that could influence voters. But there is little evidence that it has got to the core of the problem as it did after 1991. As in the pre-1991 phase, its efforts have hardly borne fruit. At the same time, the misuse of money and media power has intensified since the last two elections.
  • The second trend is that the ECI’s capacity to respond to the older types of violations of the MCC has weakened. Its response to inappropriate statements by powerful political actors has been weak, or delayed. Consequently, political actors are regaining the confidence to flout the MCC without facing the consequences. As the ECI’s capacity to secure a level playing field has dipped, attacks on it have increased. They now encompass its processes such as the use of electronic voting machines, which had become acceptable when the ECI was stronger. A vicious cycle has been set in motion.
  • The MCC is, in many ways, the weathervane of our democracy. The initial idea of free and fair elections was embraced by the political elite voluntarily, and the MCC emerged. Over time, the commitment of the political class to free and fair elections declined, and it flouted the MCC. During the early to mid-1990s, the ECI enforced the MCC on reluctant political actors, and MCC began to feared, if not voluntarily followed. Today, the ECI’s own commitment to the MCC seems to have weakened, a bad omen for our democracy.

Slowing down fast

  • The downturn in industrial activity and the spike in retail inflation pose a policy challenge
  • Yet another indicator, worryingly, points to the Indian economy slowing down fast. Industrial growth was just 0.1% in February from the year-earlier period, the slowest pace in 20 months. Industrial output had expanded by 6.9% in February 2018. Industrial growth, as measured by the index of industrial production, has been slowing down considerably in recent months, dropping to just 0.2% year-onyear in November. Manufacturing, which has a weight of almost 78% in the index, continues to be the biggest drag, with output contracting by 0.3% as compared with an 8.4% jump in the year-earlier period. The largest contributor to the slowdown in February was the capital goods sector, which shrank by close to 9%, with the contraction widening from the preceding month’s 3.4%. That the revision in this closely watched proxy for business spending plans has widened, from the 3.2% contraction reported last month, is striking. GDP grew by just 6.6% in the quarter ended December, the slowest pace in six quarters.
  • Various institutions such as the Reserve Bank of India and the International Monetary Fund have been lowering their expectations for India’s growth in the coming quarters. With other economic indicators such as the purchasing managers’ index and high-frequency data like automobile sales also signalling weakening momentum, the overall scenario, when viewed along with the slowdown in industrial output, suggests that a turnaround in economic growth is not in sight.
  • In a PMI data, a reading above 50 indicates economic expansion, while a reading below 50 points shows contraction of economic activities. The PMI is constructed separately for manufacturing and services sector. But the manufacturing sector holds more importance.
  • Retail inflation as measured by the consumer price index reached a five-month high of 2.86% in March due to the rise in food and fuel prices. While price gains still remain below the RBI’s stated inflation threshold of 4%, the trajectory is hardly bound to be reassuring. The RBI, which has cut interest rates at two successive policy meetings to help bolster economic growth, is likely to be tempted to opt for more rate reductions. While monetary easing could be an easy solution to the growth problem, policymakers may also need to look into structural issues behind the slowdown.
  • The high levels of troubled debt in not just the banking sector but the wider non-banking financial companies are hurting credit markets, and unless these issues can be resolved, no amount of rate cuts would serve as an effective stimulus.
  • To a large extent, the slowdown is due to investments in sectors that turned sour as the credit cycle tightened. In the fiscal year ended March, new investment proposals fell to a 14-year low, says the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy. Easing interest rates without reforms may only help hide investment mistakes instead of fostering a genuine economic recovery