Calls intensify for geologist to be new CMD of ONGC

Vol 10, PW 8 (10 Aug 06) People & Policy

A quiet campaign is underway to ensure that the next chairman and managing director of ONGC is a geologist.

The governments Public Enterprises Selection Board (PESB) has begun the process of choosing a new chairman to replace Subir Raha who stepped down on 24th May when the oil ministry refused to grant him a two-year extension until he retired at 60. By the 19th July deadline, 14 candidates had applied for the job.

Many believe it is high time geologists the core of any exploration and production company return to the helm at ONGC. Only this will reverse the trend of ONGC not reporting any significant discoveries in recent times, says one source.

After 1974 no geologist has been the CMD of ONGC. And since that year ONGC has not had any major discovery.

All CMDs after 1974 have been specialists from other disciplines such as mechanical engineering, production engineering, nuclear science, chemical engineering and even a civil engineer turned cement producer. Subir Raha was a human resources development specialist.

Most of these appointments were purely political, we hear. A particular person was chosen as CMD because the political bosses of the day wanted it.

There was nothing else. All of ONGCs present major producing assets like Cambay, Assam, Mumbai Offshore were discovered when geologists were heading the company, we hear.

ONGC was created out of the governments Geological Survey of India (GSI). Geologists from the GSI transferred to ONGC were the first set of officers in the new company.

Engineers from other disciplines who joined later were listed as either junior or senior technical assistants, we hear. Somewhere along the way, as the organisation grew, geologists were edged out of senior positions by people from other disciplines.

By contrast, we are told, overseas oil companies who have done well in India are those that have put geologists in senior positions. Cairn Energy is the best example.

Mike Watts (Cairn exploration director) is a geologist, we are told. Watts was responsible for the discovery of the Mangala, Aishwariya and other Cairn fields in Rajasthan.

Others believe hiring a geologist to be CMD of ONGC will make no difference to the companys performance. Read on.

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