Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Congress alleges govt granted ‘monopolies’ to Adani Group, allowed it to ‘fleece’ consumers

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The Congress on Saturday alleged that the government has granted “monopolies” to the Adani Group, allowing it to “fleece” consumers who need to use essential infrastructure services such as airports and electricity.

The opposition party also said that persistent demand for a JPC on the Adani issue was not to embarrass Prime Minister Narendra Modi but to unravel its full dimensions.

Posing a set of three questions to Prime Minister Narendra Modi as part of the party’s “Hum Adani ke Hain Kaun” series, Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh said the focus of the posers was on how the “monopolies granted” to the Adani Group have allowed it to “fleece” consumers who need to use essential infrastructure services like airports and electricity.

The Congress is persisting with its attack on the government weeks after Adani Group stocks took a beating on the bourses after US-based short seller Hindenburg Research made a litany of allegations, including fraudulent transactions and share-price manipulation.

The Gautam Adani-led group has dismissed the charges as lies, saying it complies with all laws and disclosure requirements.

In his statement addressed to the prime minister, Ramesh claimed that the Adani-operated Chaudhary Charan Singh International Airport in Lucknow, India’s 11th busiest airport, has proposed an “exorbitant increase” in the user development fee (UDF) paid by passengers.

“If approved by the Airports Economic Regulatory Authority (AERA), user fees will rise from Rs 192 to Rs 1,025 for domestic passengers and Rs 561 to Rs 2,756 for international passengers by the fiscal year 2025-26,” the Congress general secretary claimed.

AERA has already approved a six-fold fee increase for domestic passengers and a 12-fold fee increase for international passengers flying out of the Adani-operated Ahmedabad airport by 2025-26, he said.

“And AERA outdid itself in the case of the Adani-operated Mangaluru airport by not only hiking user fees for departing passengers but also imposing them on arriving passengers,” Ramesh claimed.

Is this not the “inevitable outcome of the PM’s decision to grant an airports monopoly to his friend Gautam Adani by handing him six out of six airports over the objections of the NITI Aayog and the Ministry of Finance”, the Congress leader asked.

“Will customers have to pay out of their pockets for the electoral bonds that your cronies are transferring to BJP coffers?” Ramesh said.

He also claimed that in 2008, Adani Power signed a power purchase agreement (PPA) with Haryana’s state-owned power distribution companies to supply 1,424 megawatts (MW) of electricity for 25 years at a levelised tariff of Rs 2.94 per unit.

But it began to default on its power supply obligations in December 2020, forcing Haryana to buy spot electricity at Rs 11.55 per unit, he claimed.

“Far from recovering what it was due, the Manohar Lal Khattar government decided to approve a supplementary PPA on June 27, 2022, through which it will procure a reduced 1,200 MW from Adani at Rs 3.54 per unit and will source the remaining 224 MW at a far higher price from Adani,” he alleged.

“Did you pressure CM Khattar to bail out your cronies yet again? How many thousands of crores of rupees will be fleeced from Haryana consumers by Adani to pay for the BJP’s electoral bonds?” Ramesh said.

He also claimed that on March 1, 2023, Adani Power made a disclosure to the Bombay Stock Exchange and the National Stock Exchange that it had signed supplementary PPAs with Haryana’s two power distribution companies.

However, no such PPA had been signed at that time, he alleged. Was this a crude attempt to shore up flagging Adani share prices, Ramesh asked.

“Will this be yet another case of SEBI turning a blind eye to blatant violations and deceptions by your favourite business group?” he said.

Responding to a media report which quoted senior lawyer Harish Salve as saying that the demand for a joint parliamentary committee (JPC) probe was aimed at only embarrassing the Centre, Ramesh tweeted, “My friend Harish Salve with whom I worked closely as environment minister is completely wrong.”

The persistent demand for a JPC on the Adani scam is not to embarrass the PM but to unravel its full dimensions, which no technocratic committee can or will be willing to do.

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