Oil ministry picnic to 'exotic northeast' of India

Vol 4, PW 5 (12 Apr 00) People & Policy

Oil minister Ram Naiks reputation as a cost-conscious minister has taken a knock over the size of the official delegation that accompanied him on his tour of northeast India.

It is learnt Naik invited two oil ministry officials to accompany him on a familiarisation tour of northeast India, which began on 7th April: Subbaram Narayan (Secretary) and JM Masker (Joint Secretary). Naik also asked his two junior ministers Etienne Ponnuswamy and Santosh Gangwar to come along and bring their wives with them.

It is understood Gangwar's wife declined because of poor health. It is believed that the personal staff of all the three ministers (except Naik's secretary Apoorva Chandra who stayed back for family reasons) also accompanied the group, which visited exotic locations in Guwahati, Shillong, and Manipur.

The official purpose of the visit was to inaugurate commercial production of a 3m tonnes a year (t/y) refinery at Numaligarh on April 8th. But Naik added familiarisation with the northeast in the official agenda to justify visits to other areas.

It is likely that the Prime Ministers Office (PMO) could take a dim view of the visit. In a letter to the oil ministry dated 28th February, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee reminds Naik of the need to observe austerity.

I am sure that you are fully aware of the guidelines of fiscal prudence and austerity which have been issued from time to time, reads the letter, These guidelines need to be followed scrupulously by all ministries of the government of India and all organisations under their administrative control. In the letter, Vajpayee urges Naik to set an example that will inspire others to follow.