Dr. SC Khuntia favourite as new oil secretary

Vol 18, PW 17 (23 Apr 15) People & Policy

‘Arrogant’ and prickly oil secretary Saurabh Chandra will most likely be replaced by likeable oil ministry special secretary Dr.

SC Khuntia. Chandra, who retires on April 30, has made many enemies among state-owned oil company officials who have to deal with him.

“We’re just hoping that whoever replaces him isn’t even worse,” confides one senior ONGC source. “But if Khuntia becomes oil secretary I will distribute sweets to celebrate.

He is a competent and honest officer.” Khuntia joined the IAS in 1981 from Karnataka but is originally from Orissa, oil minister Dharmendra Pradhan’s home state.

“Khuntia gives more importance to character and values and less to protocol and etiquette,” adds an IOC director. “He is straightforward and professional.

Most important is that Pradhan likes him.” Khuntia joined the ministry in July 2012 as an additional secretary and financial advisor.

He was empanelled for the post of secretary in July 2014 and promoted to special secretary on October 16, 2014. Since then he has been waiting for his next posting.

“Pradhan wanted Khuntia to replace Chandra; that’s why he kept him at the ministry,” says a ministry director. “But he might face opposition from contractors who know he will not ‘help them’ secure contracts because he is honest.

” A final decision on who will fill the secretary post is expected in the days ahead from Prime Minister Narendra Modi.