Vaidya nepotism charge for hiring sons

Vol 27, PW 1 (11 Jan 24) People & Policy

Bollywood has had a problem with nepotism for years.

But now, even state-owned oil marketing companies face the same problem. On December 18 (2023), the former working president of HPCL's officer's association, Uday Shankar, wrote to the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) and the CBI with a serious allegation: that IndianOil chairman SM Vaidya bypassed internal norms to recruit his two sons to the state-owned refiner.

"Both sons of chairman Vaidya have been appointed as officers in IndianOil, and it is alleged that their appointments were facilitated through a few officials' misuse of official capacities," writes Shankar in the letter, seen by this report. Shankar alleges that former director human resources Ranjan Mohapatra, executive director human resources Rashmi Govil (selected by the PESB as the next director HR) and chief general manager Udit Jain were involved.

According to the letter, Vaidya's older son, Siddharth, joined IndianOil in July 2017. Shankar writes that Siddharth completed his chemical engineering degree from KLE College of Engineering and Technology at Belgaum in Karnataka.

He adds Vaidya's younger son, Vinayaka, joined IndianOil in December 2022 after graduating from Dr APJ Abdul Kalam Technical University in Lucknow. Shankar further alleges that their father, chairman Vaidya, and the IndianOil 'team' lowered the acceptable cut-off scores for the Graduate Aptitude Test in Engineering (GATE) exam in the years his sons were recruited.

"Historical data suggests that the cut-off GATE scores for selection to major oil companies such as ONGC and IndianOil are typically higher than those acceptable to smaller PSUs like BPCL and HPCL," writes Shankar. "However, during the years of the chairman's sons' appointments, especially the younger son, there seems to be a reversal in this trend; the cut-off GATE scores were allegedly lowered to accommodate the chairman's sons."

The letter continues: "Exceptionally high recruitments were made during the selection years by holding vacancies in previous years and abruptly increasing the number of recruits during the selection years of chairman's sons." Even the interview process and the medical check-up were manipulated, claims Shankar.

Originally set to retire in August (2023), Vaidya secured a one-year extension as chairman on August 4 (2023) under an order from ACC deputy director Vijay Kumar Darak.