Golf on Sunday with oil secretary Kaul

Vol 5, PW 14 (29 Aug 01) People & Policy

Tempt the new oil secretary Vijayendra Kaul with a leisure activity and you could do worse than propose a round of golf! Kaul, by his own admission, is an "average" golfer, but for the macho world of oil and gas, where this tedious sport is a ritual, that's enough to gain first entry.

PETROWATCH met Kaul, aged 58, in his office in room 206 on the second floor of 'A' wing at Shastri Bhawan on 16th August. It's here that crucial decisions on India's oil and gas sector are taken, despite the fact that technically, Kaul, a bureaucrat, answers to oil minister Ram Naik, an elected politician.

Outside his door Kaul's name is emblazoned in large-sized, polished brass lettering. To meet him you first negotiate a passage through a couple of assistants in room 207next door.

Kaul's room is large, well lit and tastefully decorated in muted shades. His desk is clean with no files piling around.

He's well built, soft-spoken and cups his face in his palms as he speaks with a self-depreciating sense of humour. "My birthday is the only date I remember with certainty!" But don't be fooled: beneath the modesty is a hard taskmaster who spares no one - not even himself.

" He comes to office at 8am and works for about 11 or 12 hours," a staffer reveals. Those who have met him say he's "tough, negotiates hard and insists on doing things his way." As for the golf, he learnt it when deputed to the United Nations for seven years with the Economic and Social Council for Asia and Pacific in Bangkok