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Shares of Indian PSU tanked amid concerns over prices, lack in demand and long-term lock-in period of investment without final agreement

Still in the works: On February 14 this year, Petronet and Tellurian signed an MoU for 5 million tonnes of LNG.

One week after it was announced with considerable fanfare at the start of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the United States, several loose ends are yet to be tied up in the $2.5 billion (₹17,668 crore) investment planned by Indian PSU Petronet in American LNG company Tellurian.

According to information with The Hindu, the first sign of trouble for the deal came at the signing itself on September 21, when it became clear that what was signed in the presence of Mr. Modi was not the actual agreement, but only a second Memorandum of Understanding (MoU).

On February 14, Petronet and Tellurian had already signed an MoU for 5 million tonnes of LNG a year and an 18% equity stake. Tellurian Inc. had promised to “make a final investment decision and begin construction in the first half of 2019” for its Driftwood LNG project in Louisiana and had been negotiating to complete the agreement in time for Mr. Modi’s visit.

Asked why the deal could not be signed in time, Tellurian said the current MoU was more focused, without giving details of how it differed from the previous one.

“Petronet had been evaluating what type of volumes they needed and were ready to get more specific with this MOU. Over the coming months, we will be negotiating contract details and aim to complete documentation in March 2020,” senior vice-president, public affairs and communication at Tellurian Inc., Joi Lecznar, stated in written replies to The Hindu.

Petronet stocks plunged 7% when Indian markets opened last Monday, over news of the massive investment plan in the U.S.

A report by news agency PTI — which Petronet did not deny — said the Indian company’s board had disfavoured the Tellurian deal at a meeting in May 2019.

Board worried

Reasons for the board’s disquiet included major price drops in LNG, India’s demand shortfall, expected LNG supply from the Indian market and a negative experience with “locking in” contracts for a long period.

Worried by the stock prices, it is learnt that Petronet officials held a conference call with major investors to reassure them about the deal with Tellurian.

Petronet LNG did not respond to email and phone queries by the time of publication of this story.

A government official privy to the deal negotiations, however, told The Hindu: “The pricing of gas is volatile. What looks like a bad deal now will look brilliant when prices change, and they will, and vice-versa.”

Apart from the prices, a bigger problem is the demand deficit for LNG, given the recent downturn in manufacturing.

The BJP ally was convicted for graft, and faced a six-year ban on contesting polls

Sikkim Chief Minister Prem Singh Tamang, who had been barred from contesting elections for six years after the completion of a one-year prison term for graft in 2018, was granted a reprieve by the Election Commission of India (ECI), which reduced the disqualification period to just a year and a month.

While he did not contest the Assembly election held earlier this year, the Sikkim Krantikari Morcha (SKM) leader and BJP ally was appointed as Chief Minister.

Following the ECI order, he will now be eligible to contest elections.

In their order on Sunday, Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora and Election Commissioners Ashok Lavasa and Sushil Chandra reduced Mr. Tamang’s period of disqualification, citing Section 11 of the Representation of the People (RP) Act, 1951, which allows the ECI to reduce or remove disqualification “for reasons to be recorded”.

Minimum punishment

The order said the “alleged offence” for which the SKM leader had been convicted in 2016 went back to 1996-1997, when the minimum punishment of two years would lead to disqualification under the RP Act.

The order noted that Mr. Tamang had been sentenced to one-year imprisonment on December 26, 2016, and the Section of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, under which he was convicted, had been omitted in an amendment in 2018. He completed the sentence on August 10, 2018.

States asked to act against hoarding

The retail price has shot up to ₹60 a kg. At one point, it even touched ₹80.

In the light of skyrocketing prices, the government on Sunday prohibited onion exports until further notice and imposed limits on the stocks that can be held to prevent hoarding.

Government sources said the States had been asked to take “strict measures to prevent hoarding by traders, including organising raids.”

“Export policy of onion for the item description at Serial Number 51 & 52 of Chapter 7 of Schedule 2 of ITC (HS) classification of Export & Import Items is amended from free to prohibited till further orders,” an official notification said.

In other words, “export of all varieties of onions, as described above, is prohibited with immediate effect.”

Further, a stock limit of 100 quintals for retail traders and 500 quintals for wholesale traders has been imposed.

The retail price has shot up to ₹60 a kg in the metros. At one point, it had even touched ₹80. A central buffer of 56,700 metric tonnes was built by the government.

A major push for new grassroots leadership via BDCs

Tight security: CRPF personnel stopping vehicles amid restrictions in Srinagar on Saturday.Nissar Ahmad Nissar Ahmad

In a major push to find new grassroots-level leadership in Jammu & Kashmir, the government on Sunday announced elections to the block development councils (BDCs) across the State on October 24.

“Every District Development Board will have these elected BDC chairpersons as members, besides MLAs and MPs. At the district level, these chairpersons have an important role in the development work of the district under the Panchayat Raj Act, 1989, and Rules of 1996,” said Chief Electoral Officer (CEO), J&K, Shailendra Kumar.

Much-awaited

The much-awaited elections will see 26,629 elected Panchs and Sarpanchs elect 310 chairpersons in the first phase.

This will be followed by polling for 22 district-level chairpersons for the District Development Boards. The results will be declared the same day.

“Whenever any candidate or political party approaches us for facilitating a level playing field, we are here to facilitate it,” Mr. Kumar said.

Panchayat elections were held in J&K in November, and were boycotted by the two main regional parties — the National Conference and the Peoples Democratic Party — over the issue of Articles 370 and 35A.

The elections assume significance with top leaders of the regional parties remaining under detention after the August 5 decision to revoke J&K’s special status.

The elections, which will empower grassroots leaders, will create a new political class in J&K.

An official said a block-level chairperson will have a Block Development Officer as his secretary and the District Development Board chairperson will work closely with the District Deputy Commissioner in implementing and allocating money for development work at the district and block levels.

The government has reserved 172 seats for Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Castes. Also, 33% reservation is earmarked for women Panchs and Sarpanchs.

“Of 316 blocks, two blocks — one in Kulgam and one in Srinagar — have no elected Panchs or Sarpanchs. There are four blocks where no women Panchs and Sarpanchs are available for reserved seats. Thus, there shall be no elections there,” Mr. Kumar said.

Fresh polls

Meanwhile, the government said there were 12,776 vacant seats in J&K. Around 60% — 12,565 vacant seats — were from the Valley, where around 500 persons resigned in the wake of militant threats.

“We have to prepare fresh electoral rolls before holding polls for the vacant seats. There will be around 2% new voters. Unless they are there, we cannot have fresh elections,” he said.

Mr. Kumar said two Panchs — one in Baramulla and one in Kupwara — have been detained under Section 107 during the recent clampdown.

An ethnic group in Arunachal Pradesh can tell who started its clan

Can you recall the name of your ancestor from 20 generations ago? Or rattle off the names of all your forefathers, right up to the founder of your clan or ethnic group, centuries ago?

Members of the Galo community in Arunachal Pradesh can, and this is made possible by their system of naming.

At about 1.5 lakh people, the Galos are one of the 26 major communities of Arunachal Pradesh, and dominate West Siang, Lepa Rada and Lower Siang districts. They have a big population in East Siang, Upper Subansiri and Namsai districts too.

Primeval ancestor

The Galos belong to the Tani group inhabiting Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, besides Tibet.

They trace their common origin to a primeval ancestor, Abotani.

But unlike the Mising (Assam), Adi, Apatani, Nyishi and Tagin, the other communities, only the Galos maintain genealogy through given names. “We have a system of prefixing the second syllable of a father’s name to that of a son, who passes on the suffix in his name to his son. We can trace the names of ancestors from the first syllable or prefix of our names,” Kenjum Bagra, a zoologist at Pasighat’s North Eastern Institute of Folk Medicine, said.

Mr. Bagra is the 21st descendant of Memo, the founder of the Memo clan.

Ethnographer Moi Bagra’s book Identity says the Memos belong to the Paktu Ao “clan fraternity”, one of 22 the Galos are divided into.

The Memos have nine sub-clans: Angu, Bagra, Doji, Kamnyi, Karso, Naho, Ngomdir, Rasa or Rame, and Yorsi or Kamsi. The numbers of sub-clans of the other clans vary.

Genealogical website

Mr. Bagra, who began record-keeping for Memos 20 years ago, has created a genealogical site, with some names hyperlinked.

Mr. Bagra’s father, at number 20 on the Memo line, is Gumken, his grandfather is Megum, and his great-grandfather is Gumme. The ‘me’ in his great-grandfather’s name was prefixed to his grandfather’s name, whose suffix decided his father’s name.

Illustration: Deepak Harichandan

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