Oil ministry 'Marriage Party' returns to Delhi

Vol 4, PW 6 (26 Apr 00) People & Policy

In the last issue of Petrowatch we wrote about an excursion to the north-east by officials and ministers from the oil ministry.

It now transpires that the Assam ' picnic' turned out to be a costly affair. Junior minister Etienne Ponnuswamy not only took his wife, but also his daughter and son-in-law.

Petrowatch learns that the 'picnic' group included some 25 people. Observers said it resembled a traditional Indian marriage party not an official delegation from the oil ministry.

Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) provided each member with an escort and twenty cars were put at their disposal. Each member was provided with a separate room (except the couples, who were given luxury suites) in the hotels they stayed in.

In one case, the executive director (safety) of ONGC took a reconnaissance flight in a helicopter and a small aircraft used by the picnickers justto ensure that the aircraft were safe and the pilots were experienced. This safety exercise cost the Indian exchequer Rs 11 lakh ($25,000).

Besides this, the party caused major traffic problems, since most of the areas visited were cordoned off to locals, often hoursbefore the VIPs passed that way. In one incident, Hindu devotees were kept out of the famous Kamakshi temple in Shillong for over three hours ahead of the ministerial visit.

A minor riot broke out when the devotees learnt that they had to wait longer since the lesser mortals in the oil ministry party would also visit the temple. Ultimately, police guarding the templegave in to the mob and the second party was asked to either wait in the queue with the locals or abandon the visit.