Ram Naik faces worried Bharat Petroleum employees

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

Oil Minister Ram Naik had a lot of explaining to do recently when he met a group of worried Bharat Petroleum employees in Bombay on a visit to inaugurate the company's Rs620cr ($142m) desulphurisation plant.

Soon after Naik finished his 60-minute speech at the 6.9m t/y refinery at Mahul in Mumbai, a group of refinery workers surrounded him. "What is going to happen to us" they asked, " We are hearing a lot of stories that the Ambanis (of Reliance Industries) are going to buy Bharat Petroleum.

We want answers!" said the workers. Unfazed, Naik assured the employees there were no plans to sell off the company: "No, there is no such plan like that, he assured them, Anyway, in my speech did I not say your company is a 'Navratna' ('Crown Jewel') I'm sure you know what is the meaning of being a 'Navratna' company." Naik left the meeting, irritated.

For its part, BPCL is getting weary of Naik's demands on the company. "We made the initial mistake of pampering his every wish," a source tells this report, "Even going to the extent of meeting a major part of the expenses of his Bombay office.

Now if he wants anything for his people he calls us up. It is getting quite tiresome." The official adds: "What rankles us most is that despite all that we do for him, he never reciprocates.

We are concerned at this huge private housing complex coming up just outside the refinery. We see it as a security risk and have asked him to get the project scrapped, but he has not done anything."