RS Sharma to be acting CMD of ONGC
Uncertainty over the fate of Subir Raha's tenure as Chairman and Managing Director of ONGC came to an end on Thursday, with the Government ordering the corporation's Director (Finance) RS Sharma to take charge as interim chief of India's largest corporate entity.
Immediately after his appointment, the new acting Chairman and Managing Director RS Sharma said that he would resolve all conflicts with the administrative ministry, within the organisation and counter parties.
The Petroleum Ministry issued an order saying: "Consequent upon the expiry of the five-year term of Subir Raha as CMD ONGC on May 24, 2006, the competent authorities have decided to give additional charge of the post of CMD ONGC as an interim arrangement to the senior most full-time functional director of ONGC, RS Sharma, Director (Finance).
"It has also been decided to initiate, the selection process of the new CMD of ONGC to the Public Enterprise Selection Board."
The Ministry had opposed extending the tenure of Raha, the high profile chief of ONGC, making him probably the first head of a public sector firm to be denied an extension till his superannuation.
Till date, all PSU heads under the age of 60 have been given extensions till their retirement age even after completion of their fixed tenure.
According to sources, the ground for Raha's exit was laid by former oil minister Mani Shankar Aiyar, who severely criticised the ONGC chairman for "insubordination" and converting the company into a "one-man-show".
Former Petroleum Secretary SC Tripathi too had admonished him for "doing nothing" for India's energy security.
Raha was last year involved in a public spat with Aiyar over the minister's "interference" in ONGC's internal affairs. His woes were compounded with TNR Rao's adverse report on the fire that devastated an oil installation on the Mumbai High field last year.
Petroleum Ministry set aside 'very good' ratings given by previous oil secretaries including present Cabinet Secretary BK Chaturvedi, sources said.
While Petroleum Minister Murli Deora declined comments despite several attempts, a senior oil ministry official said, "Raha is not being given a boot. He was appointed for five years or till 60 years of age, whichever was earlier. His five year term ended yesterday. We are not sacking him or terminating his service. In the normal course, the contract has ended."
Raha had won many admirers in the industry for his visionary approach and big-bang ideas but also rubbed many on the wrong side as went about with the transformation of ONGC from a docile public sector company into a vibrant oil major.
During his tenure, ONGC's gross sales went up from Rs 22,841 crore in 2001-02 to Rs 50,900 crore in 2005-06, while net profit spiralled up to Rs 14,175 crore from Rs 6,197 crore during the same period.
He is also credited with acquiring MRPL and transforming ONGC subsidiary ONGC Videsh Ltd, which at one time was about to be shut down, into the largest Indian transnational company with committed investments of $4.19 billion in 21 properties across 12 countries.