Aiyar against privatisation of state oil companies

Vol 8, PW 26 (06 Apr 05) People & Policy

Aiyar is quick to remind us that he is steeped in the traditions of the public sector, despite his terse remarks about the functioning of Indian state-owned companies and their monarch like chief executives.

Take his view on disinvestment. Aiyar opposes the disinvestment of Hindustan Petroleum or Bharat Petroleum or for that matter any other Indian state-owned oil company.

Would the Indian public ever be the owners of state-owned oil companies The people of India own the government of India and the government of India owns these companies, replies Aiyar. I see no reason at all to dilute government holdings in these companies.

Aiyar also opposes a finance ministry proposal to divest the governments stake in Oil India. I dont see any reason to dilute the government holding in Oil India either.

Yet, Aiyar admits he is often helpless. Such matters will go before the cabinet and decisions will be taken.

Asked if he is happy seeing GAIL emerge as a monopoly player, he said: However much GAIL might wish to be a monopoly, it is not my policy to encourage monopoly. Aiyar envisages GAILs future role as the most outstanding gas transmission company in a completely competitive environment.

Contrary to general perception, Aiyar does not want state-owned oil companies to stop diversifying. I am not planning to strip anybody, he said.

The forays that GAIL and other companies have made into diversification are a given, he said. They will have to be taken into account but I am unhappy with everybody trying to become an upstream and a downstream company and both an oil company and a gas company, as well as wanting to get into petrochemicals and power.

I can ill afford to have them needlessly squandering their resources to acquire a position all along the hydrocarbon value chain.