'We won't be silenced!' say junior ONGC staff

Vol 21, PW 7 (11 Jan 18) People & Policy

Unwilling to stay silent, junior ONGC officers have reacted scathingly to a little-publicised order issued on December 11 banning criticism of government policy by state-owned company employees.

"We will not protest against government policy but will keep raising concerns about anything that affects our organisation," stresses an ONGC source. "We don't think the government will take any drastic steps to punish us for speaking out after its disappointing (December 2017 Gujarat state election) victory and with (nationwide) elections in 2019." In November, ONGC and Oil India officers fiercely protested moves by the DGH to farm-out stakes in at least eight fields to private players.

Soon after, the Department of Public Enterprises reacted by issuing the Consolidated Model Conduct, Discipline & Appeal (CDA) Rules for CPSEs (Central Public Sector Enterprises), 2017. Signed by director JN Prasad, Rule 9 (a) of the order starkly warns that no state-owned employee is permitted to make any public statement, "which has the effect of adverse criticism of any policy or action of the central or state governments, or of the CPSE." In parliament however, no such restrictions apply and seven cross-party MPs raised pointed questions about the oil ministry's plans before it closed on January 5.

To all questions, oil minister Dharmendra Pradhan gave near identical 'copy and paste' answers, defending the government's move saying the government wants to increase domestic production with another DSF round and through 'Technical Service Contract' and 'Farming-in' models.