ISLAMABAD-Terming the decision of charging the domestic consumers in Peshawar for RLNG prices instead of the natural gas unjustified, the Senate Standing Committee on Petroleum has said that Ogra is rubber stamping wrong decisions.

The Senate Standing Committee on Petroleum, which met here with Senator Mohsin Aziz in the chair, was also informed that 130 mine workers were killed across Pakistan during one year in the coal mine accidents.

The committee discussed the matters pertaining to RLNG tariff rates being charged from domestic consumers of Ragi Model Town, Peshawar, safety measures for coal mine workers and merger and absorption of employees of Lakhra Coal Development Company. Implementation status of the recommendation made by the Committee regarding cancelation of lease agreements No. 109 and 151/8 by the PMDC Collieries Office Sharigh, District Harnai, Balochistan was also came under consideration.

During the briefing regarding charging of RLNG tariff instead of natural gas tariff from domestic consumers of Ragi Model Town Peshawar, the committee was informed that due to increasing gas shortfall the then PM vide directive dated 18 April, 2011 imposed moratorium on all new gas connections across the country for a period of six months which was further extended in October, 2011. It was agreed that natural gas through the Sui Gas transmission system will not be provided to high rise buildings and new housing schemes. These will be encouraged to energise their customers through LPG, LNG and alternate energy sources. SNGPL informed the Committee that as per policy in vogue Regi Model Town, Peshawar is being provided RLNG based gas connections. As a consequence of this decision, the Committee was further informed that consumers are being billed heavily. It is pertinent to mention that most of the residents of Regi Model Town are pensioners, who cannot afford exorbitant charges. The Committee took serious notice of the issue and said Ogra is rubber stamping wrong decisions. The committee was of the opinion that OGRA is the regulatory body and is above the Ministry’s and SNGPL decisions.

The matter, it asserted, must be reviewed by OGRA and decision must be taken after in-depth analysis. The Committee asserted that the decision was taken by the Cabinet and cannot be treated as policy. 

Chairman of the committee said that it unjustified that RLNG rates are being charged from domestic consumers. Senator Mohsin Aziz directed that the decision must be revisited by the SNGPL Board and the issue will be taken up by the Committee after 15 days.

Discussing the progress on implementation status of the recommendation made by the Committee regarding measures for safety of coal mine workers to avoid human casualties in future, the Committee was informed that Chief Inspector Mines, Balochistan has endorsed the recommendations of the Committee. 

Furthermore, the Labour and Manpower Department, Government of Balochistan has clarified that the Balochistan Occupational Safety and Health Bill, 2019 has been processed and would soon be placed at the Cabinet meeting in Balochistan. 

The committee was informed that during one year 130 mine workers were killed by coal mine related accidents, including 66 in Balochistan, 50 in KP, 12 in Punjab and two in Sindh. 

Chairman Committee, Senator Mohsin Aziz opined that the conditions are pathetic for coal miners. He said that they risked their lives, working in inhuman conditions and it was incumbent on the government to provide them with facilities to improve working conditions. Social security and welfare plans for miners were stressed. The Committee asserted that government departments must focus on ensuring that the decisions of the Committee are implemented in letter and spirit. The Committee directed the Petroleum Division to resend the recommendations of the Committee to the Government of Balochistan for proper implementation. In order to improve conditions of miners it was asserted that insurance companies must be taken onboard and 3 to 4 percent paid to the Government of Balochistan must be paid as premium to these companies. All mines that do not follow safety procedures must be shut. Accountability of mine owners is imperative. It must be ensured that all mine workers are registered with EOBI.

Taking up the matter of merger and absorption of employees of Lakhra Coal Development Company, the Committee was of the view that all employees must be absorbed according to their share (50 percent PMDC, 25 percent WAPDA and 25 percent the Government of Sindh). The Committee was informed PKR 10 million was required for this. The Federal Government is ready to pay its share; however the Committee was informed that the Government of Sindh does not respond to any correspondence regarding this matter. Representatives from PMDC, WAPDA and the Sindh Government have been summoned in the next meeting.

The meeting was attended by Senator Mir Kabir Ahmed, Muhammad Shahi, Senator Nauman Wazir Khattak, Senator Dr. Jehanzeb Jamaldini, Senator Bahramand Khan Tangi, Senator Mir Muhammad Yousuf Badini, Senator Taj Muhammad Afridi and senior officers from the Petroleum Division along with all concerned.