ONGC unions speculate who 'misguided' Puri

Vol 27, PW 4 (22 Feb 24) People & Policy

ONGC's Association of Scientific and Technical Officers (ASTO) has confronted ED employee relations (ED-ER) Rajan Asthana, who it blames for an allegedly "misguided" parliamentary answer by oil minister Hardeep S Puri.

ASTO reacted angrily to a parliamentary answer from Puri on February 5 (2024) that said the officers' union was "in unison" with management on a new policy limiting the number of promotions. ASTO president Nishant Kumar wrote to Puri on February 6 (2024) at the India Energy Week in Goa, stressing that in its previous December 31 (2023) letter to ONGC, the union had not suggested that it agreed with management on the new policy.

"(Later) we confronted ED-ER (Asthana) over this, but they (the ED-ER office) are saying their inputs to the ministry were shortened in the parliamentary answer," a senior ASTO officer tells us. Usually, a parliamentary cell within ONGC answers MP queries for both houses of Parliament.

If these questions relate to employees, the parliamentary cell gets the answers from the ED-ER office. Chief general manager D Malik is head of the parliamentary cell.

But another ONGC source claims the parliamentary cell is the equivalent of a post office and blames whoever supplied the answers. Detailed questions sent to ONGC's public relations department went unanswered.

Pressure is building on Asthana's office. On February 15 (2024), the Delhi labour commissioner's office summoned the employee relations office to talk to another ONGC union, the ONGC Officers' Association (OOA), over pending concerns, including the controversial new recruitment and promotions policy.

Another meeting is scheduled on April 4 (2024), according to OOA president M George Ravi Shekeran, who was newly elected on February 11 (2024). ASTO and OOA are rival organisations, with no less than 1500 officers moving from ASTO to OOA since January 1 (2024).

However, both are united in their anger at the ED-ER office. "Asthana's name was even adversely mentioned by the Gujarat High Court in a judgement," says Shekeran.

"But we don't know what has happened since then." On December 8 (2023), Justice Nikhil S Kariel of the Gujarat High Court stated in a paramedics' recruitment cancellation case that he found "very interesting reading" an email dated October 19 (2021) from Asthana that contradicted ONGC's responses to the court.