Clearing up Reddy's mess won't be easy

Vol 16, PW 11 (13 Dec 12) People & Policy

His harshest critics say former oil minister Jaipal Reddy set back the ministry 15 years with his reluctance to clear exploration work, scaring away E&P investors and trashing India’s image abroad.

The man who carried out Reddy’s diktat - oil secretary Girish Chaturvedi - is retiring less than two months from now on January 31, after less than three years in the job. Whoever replaces him must work with new oil minister Veerappa Moily to clean up Reddy’s mess, and re-build confidence in the Indian E&P sector.

One man cited is shipping secretary PK Sinha, 57, who joined the IAS in 1977 from Uttar Pradesh. Sinha was earlier oil ministry special secretary until February 29, 2012, and was on good terms with Chaturvedi - both qualified as IAS officers in the same year.

“Sinha’s a good choice,” says a colleague. “He knows the sector well.

” Another potential candidate is oil ministry additional secretary Sudhir Bhargava, 57. “Bhargava is ruled out,” asserts another bureaucrat.

“He hasn’t become special secretary yet and Moily can’t justify promoting him from additional secretary to secretary.” Yet Bhargava joined the oil ministry on March 1, 2010 and is due for promotion to special secretary rank since September along with others who joined the IAS in 1979.

A clearer picture will emerge only after parliament completes its winter session on December 20. “Moily is a sharp politician,” we hear.

“He would like to appoint his own person from (home state) Karnataka.” Yet PMO principal secretary Pulok Chatterjee likes to keep a tight rein on the oil ministry and might also lobby for someone of his choosing.