Vol 3, PW 2 (17 Feb 99) People & Policy

Major decision-making at ONGC appears to have ground to a halt ever since the state-owned corporation announced its intention to lower the retirement age to 58, in an effort to reduce staff levels.

In the last issue of Petrowatch we reported how on 27 January ONGCs board approved the introduction of a Voluntary Retirement Scheme (VRS) which would enable employees to leave two years earlier than the official government retirement age of 60. Since then, a source in Mumbai tells Petrowatch that most decision makers - many of whom are in the 58-60 age group - are now busy calculating how much they stand to gain by accepting the Golden Handshake.

Serious work and decision-making has all but stopped. A second source reveals that ONGCs board is still awaiting official clearance from the Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas for the VRS scheme.

The file is still in the office of TS Vijayaraghavan, Secretary, where it awaits approval. Like most Indian government policy, a lot of grey areas are visible in the VRS.

One report suggests these are unlikely to be resolved before April. Until then, it is expected that major decision-making will be on hold.

Thar said, there is no doubt that VRS has been well-received. Latest information obtained by Petrowatch has it that about 1,800 employees have applied for the Voluntary Retirement Scheme.

The vast majority of these have come from ONGCs Western Regional Business Centre (WRBC), currently in the throes of a McKinsey-inspired staff shake-out. TABLE: Departures from ONGC in the last three years Year Regular retirement Voluntary retirement Total parting inc.

death etc. 1995-96 726 297 1253 1996-97 857 267 1319 1997-98 930 240 1438 Senior ONGC managers expect that some 3,500 will apply for the VRS scheme.

At present, ONGC has a total of 42,000 employees.