Shashi Shanker promotes supporters

Vol 24, PW 9 (25 Mar 21) People & Policy

Just days before he retires, ONGC boss Shashi Shanker is facing accusations of cronyism and a lack of transparency from junior and senior officers unhappy with the 2021 promotions list.

At 10.30pm on March 12 (2021), ONGC released a list of 108 chief general managers promoted to group general managers and 45 group general managers promoted as executive director, the most senior rank below board-level director. Five days later, ONGC released promotion lists for 1035 lower-rank officers, from chief engineer to general manager.

In theory, such promotions should be merit-based. But critics have slammed the entire exercise.

"Shanker has given parting gifts to his loved ones," claims an angry ONGC source. He alleges Shanker has ensured all those loyal to him will be eligible to apply for director-level positions over the next ten years.

"Most of those promoted to GGM and ED have no field experience," he claims. "They have largely spent time in desk jobs or Shanker's support group."

ONGC carried out assessments and held interviews for promotions from chief engineer to general manager in October and November 2020 but is yet to release results. Sources claim management manipulated the personal assessment and interview results to back those close to the directors.

They further allege Shanker informally asked directors not to promote officers with two years to retirement and to focus on younger officers. However, it seems only the director of technology and field services, OP Singh (Shanker's protege), has followed this directive.

"The directors finance (Subhash Kumar), exploration (RK Srivastava), offshore (Rajesh Kakkar), onshore (Anurag Sharma) and human resources (Alka Mittal) have not followed Shanker's direction and have promoted officers with two years or less to retirement," claims a source, "and used their criteria." Shanker steps down as ONGC chairman on March 31 (2021).