Arun Singh targets 'comfort posts' at ONGC

Vol 26, PW 4 (09 Feb 23) People & Policy

Arun Singh is winning praise for his crackdown on plum postings of a decade or more for senior, mainly HR, ONGC officers.

But those who benefitted from such 'comfort posts' are fighting back. Unions and officer associations routinely complain that those who have never done field duty for years, mainly HR officers sitting in Delhi or Dehradun, make life-changing decisions for others.

On February 3 (2023), a two-page order directed modifications in ONGC's job rotation and transfer policy in line with decisions at an ONGC Executive Committee meeting chaired by Singh on January 30 (2023). "E1-E6 level executives, having a vintage of cumulative ten years or more at one location, shall be rotated to another sector," reads the order from executive director Rajan Asthana.

"For the western offshore, it will be 12 years or more; this will not apply to executives who have completed three sectors, including the northeast." This last exemption for officers working in three sectors might prove controversial.

ONGC executives work in six sectors across India: Delhi and Dehradun or the northern sector; Rajasthan and Gujarat in the western sector; Mumbai Regional Business Centre (MRBC) including Uran, Panvel, Mumbai High, Nhava and Hazira; the southern sector including Karaikal, Chennai, Rajahmundry and Kakinada; the central sector including Bokaro, Kolkata and Agartala; and the eastern sector, which includes ONGC assets at Nazira, Jorhat and Silchar. "It's a good order, but read between the lines," says a source.

"For instance, (general manager HR) NC Baliarsingh, executive assistant to the director HR, has served 16 years in the Delhi-Dehradun sector without a break; will he not be transferred because he has served in three sectors during his career?" Also, officers who acquire field experience can still look forward to cushy postings. According to the order, those up to the level of chief manager (E-4) will be given operational assignments at work centres unless they are needed for "specialised roles at corporate offices."

Undoubtedly, the order clamps down on officers lobbying for transfers to desirable urban centres. "For postings to Delhi/Dehradun/Kolkata/Chennai, approval of the EC (Executive Committee) would be required," says the order.

The order also links promotions to transfers and says those considered for promotion to DGM rank (E-5) should have exposure to at least two sectors. By contrast, for promotion to GM or CGM, they should have exposure to three sectors.

Any officer transferred on promotion can only assume his promotion at his new posting. "Failing which the promotion order shall be cancelled, and s/he will be debarred for two subsequent yearly departmental promotion committees (DPCs) for promotion," says the order.

ONGC is lenient with officers with children sitting their high-pressure 10th or 12th-year exams. Once promoted, these officers can stay on location for a year to give their children stability.

But if they do not move the following year, they will be denied promotions for two subsequent years.