Nathu Lal leads race for drilling director

Vol 4, PW 11 (05 Jul 00) Exploration & Production

Nathu Lal, Executive Director of the Western Regional Business Centre (WRBC) has emerged as top contender for the post of drilling director to replace SM Malhotra who completes his term on September 31st.

Lal's nearest rival for the post was AK Mehra, head of MRBC's Drilling Business Group. "Lal's selection did not raise any eyebrows," writes a correspondent, "He was tipped to be short listed, given his rank and seniority." Another source puts the success of Lal, aged 55 (born 3rd April 1945) down to the fact that he belongs to the Scheduled Caste or "Dalit" (formally known as "untouchable") community of India.

In India 'Dalits' have endured a history of social and economic exclusion. Since independence in 1947 political parties of all persuasion have tried to appease the community with job quotas in government owned companies and departments.

Etienne Ponnuswamy, a junior minister in the oil ministry, also belongs to this community. Lal's profile is typical of an ONGC officer.

As an electrical engineer he began his career in the government sugar industry in 1968. In 1971, he moved to the Directorate General of Supplies and Disposal as an inspection officer.

The next year he went to the fertiliser industry and was there till he joined ONGC in 1980. Between 1995 and 1998, he was Regional Director, Southern Regional Business Centre in Chennai.

In 1998, he moved to Baroda as Executive Director of WRBC. "Lal is a very gentle and soft spoken man," writes an acquaintance, "The best thing that can be said about him is that he is 'nice'."