ONGC helps Naik win popularity in Mumbai

Vol 6, PW 3 (10 Apr 02) People & Policy

GENEROSITY COMES easily if you can dip your hands into somebody else's pocket.

And state-owned Indian oil companies have very deep pockets, as oil minister Ram Naik knows only too well. On 7th April, it was ONGC's turn to 'sponsor' Naik's personal agenda in his Mumbai parliamentary constituency.

The event: providing electricity to the island sea fort village of Arnala at a cost of Rs2.25cr ($46,875). Welcome arches, banners, colourful posters - all paid for by ONGC - and hailing Naik as the 'keeper of promises' lined the 10 km route from Virar railway station to the makeshift Arnala jetty where fishing boats - hired by ONGC - shipped guests to the island.

Against a backdrop of the 16th century Arnala fort, a vast marquee welcomed Naik to inaugurate the power supply scheme. Naik, a host of local BJP and Shiv Sena politicians, ONGC chairman Subir Raha, directors R.

C. Gourh, V.

K Sharma and Jauhari Lal were welcomed with much song and dance by the local population. For the final 200 metres to the marquee Naik walked a sandy red carpet lined on either side by a welcome party of colourfully dressed fisherwomen.

Songs and speeches praising Naik and expressing gratitude dominated the next three hours. Naik recounted how he had "asked" ONGC to fund the electrification project and how he would unhesitatingly issue similar orders to other PSUs.

"After all ONGC has been taking oil and gas from Mumbai High for the past 25 years." Naik said he was pained to learn that not all 354 households on the island would get power and promptly ordered ONGC to pay the Rs1, 000 deposit required from each customer by the state electricity board. "ONGC will pay for the meters.

I've issued orders just now," he said to thunderous applause. "Thank God he didn't order ONGC to pay their electricity bills as well," said a bystander.