The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Raha runs into MRPL flare-up

New Delhi, Aug. 29: There is more trouble brewing for ONGC chairman Subir Raha with the officers’ association of Mangalore Refinery and Petrochemicals Ltd (MRPL) lodging a formal complaint with petroleum minister Ram Naik over a spate of promotions in the company.

The minister is reported to have instructed the additional secretary in the petroleum ministry, M. S. Srinivasan, to enquire into the matter.

The officers’ association has alleged that the promotions have enabled junior officers to leapfrog over their senior colleagues in violation of well-established norms. The “arbitrary” manner in which these promotions have been allegedly pushed through has demoralised the staff of MRPL. The complaint submitted to the minister by senior officers reportedly runs into seven pages.

This development comes at a time when the ONGC management is already under fire from Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) for poaching on its staff. The ONGC top-brass is also under a cloud over the helicopter crash in Mumbai High which claimed the lives of over 20 employees most of them experienced engineers in offshore operations.

ONGC is making its maiden foray into the downstream oil refining and marketing segment under Raha who is an old IOC hand. But in his zeal to go ahead, he appears to be stepping on too many toes.

The minister is reported to have taken the complaint by the MRPL officers quite seriously because the refinery has been running well as far as the technical operations go.

The company has been making losses because its payments from the government did not come through in time as a result of which it had to borrow heavily and got crushed under the high interest burden.

ONGC has an over 70 per cent stake in MRPL and the company is now being turned around under a debt restructuring package that has been worked out with the banks and financial institutions.

ONGC had picked up the Aditya Birla group’s 37 per cent stake in MRPL for Rs 60 crore. It had invested Rs 600 crore by way of equity in MRPL to own a 51 per cent share in the company.

The oil major then exercised its option to pick up at par value another 20.9 per cent stake held by banks and financial institutions. The total cost of this stake was around Rs 370 crore.

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