Friday, January 16, 2009

Time to Introspect

It will be wrong on my part if I do not allow this message from being uploaded here. Friends this is a blog -on the web -public are watching.. not the Wailing Wall of Jerusalem that we will come and cry. Already Public Sympathy is lost due to Media - let us not do further damage. This mail from an ex-officer of IOCL should help us introspect and what we are doing now wrong? Pls think and then use this blog in the manner it was originally meant to be. We must learn to hear the opposite view, then only we can get respect and from respect comes power. With the power that arises from respect a leader can do much more rather than with the power that arises from the gun. Because in the case of the gun the opponent can always take out a bigger gun.
I have been following the oil industry developments with great interest. I was happy for once that you personally did not get the opportunity to participate in the mess, quite the way you wanted! The whole thing was so systematically mismanaged. The after effects, and the manner of attempting to correct wrong notions in public mind, is also ridiculous.

While striking work is a conventional bargaining technique, there are laws and circumstances which limits its usage. There is an economic recession on; people world over are affected by job cuts and in many places, voluntary surrender of emoluments, so that the company stays afloat. As for what was reflected in the media, was it not the duty of the strikers to ensure proper communication and building up public opinion prior to launching of the agitation? People generally view oil industry executives in this country as very well paid, very corrupt; just about floating in oil and alcohol. We have never done much to change this perception. Hence, it seems only natural that various sections of society do not bleed for our woes.

Regarding the blog in question, most of it is rubbish and parts irrelevant to the issue. One guy writes "mother India..." etc, as if it is a political speech. The need of the hour is a balanced soul-searching. The oil industry is huge in terms of revenue earned and also geographical spread. The revenue earned is a direct political decision, as the prices of petroleum products continue to be "administered" and not determined by supply demand factors alone. Do oil men expect to be saluted for this? As for the geographical spread, that too is a consequence of political and bureaucratic decision. What is the great contribution of the striking oil men in this? As for hours of work, compensation for hardship location, Leh, Ladhak et al, isn't there a differential compensation package in place? People do often live away from families for work exigencies, but to counter this, there is hugely subsidised facilities available for these officers; their families are also able to continue getting housing facilities at the place of their choice. Not many industries are half as generous in this regard. So where is the great patriotism of oil men in this?

There is a lot of comparison with private sector, private oil companies etc. Do you really believe that all, or even many, of these oil men have refused much higher paying jobs in the private sector for patriotic reasons? If and when such a rare thing does happen, the issues that tilt the balance are more likely to be job security, largely assured career progression, glamorous "other oilmen" with their ostentatious lifestyle sustained by a cleptocratic ethos.

Some guys have written in the blog with an "I have done this great job" attitude. Do they ever stop to think, was it not your duty to do this job, weren't you paid for it? I have come across people coming together to clean-up dirty parks or polluted streams on sundays to protect the environment and "mother nature". There is no compulsion or remuneration for such work; it is purely voluntary. Have you ever heard oil men doing such "kar seva" for mother India! So where is the great sacrifice?

Many guys who thought they were better than their colleagues, and who were also largely assessed as such by their superiors, left public sector for the private. Does anyone think that those who did not make it, or want it for reasons of comfort and security, were a holier lot? So what is all this about private sector poaching? A free market necessarily means that one is free to sell one's labour and intellect as one deems fit. Most oil men in India were "nurtured by the public sector". But that is because, for some decades private players were not allowed in the sector. Before that, when the public sector was first set up, most oil men came from erstwhile private sectors. This is entirely a function of political whims, rationalized and intellectualized by the bureaucracy. There never was any great sacrifice by any oil man in this.

Some guys have boasted in the blog that they are not a part of the "Association" as they are too senior; yet they have stood up for the striking officers . I see that Deputy General Managers now fall in this category. Well, one must decide once and for all, whether one wants to be a mouth-piece of a unionized group, or an ar-- hole of the management. Why should the "management" support and incite the unionized juniors, especially when their own jobs are secure. It seems highly unfair that some should try to get benefit out of the risks, sufferings and blunders of others. The DGMs who worked during the strike should either have joined the Association and strikers, or else whole-heartedly supported the "Management" and they government. I get a feeling that such people have caused more harm than good to the cause of the strikers. The union leaders at the ground level have been listening too closely to these bosses who had nothing to lose and everything to gain in either case of success or failure of the strikers. Hence, they failed to be receptive to the moods of the government and the nation. Unionized agitators necessarily have to be smart enough to negotiate, which means to get at least a perceived win-win situation for both sides.

On the whole, the whole thing was badly organized, and hence doomed. Was it because the concerned agitators were used to a protected environment and didn't know how to find their bearing in a real situation? Even now, I find that oilmen are cursing the free press for misinformation, when they should only blame themselves for failing to come across with even objective facts such as current emoluments. Coming back to the blog in question, I find almost everything there factually wrong. The only exception is the statement that salaries were wrongly reflected in the media. But the oilmen only have themselves to thank for this mismanagement of information.

Having said so much, I wonder if you will read all this.
Well I have read the mail fully and used it too quite in contrast to what the sender thought about me. But I wonder will you read the message and start introspecting?

In fact has anybody of you reading this blog understood whom I really directed my own message to - the media or ourselves? [ I do have this habit of bi-directional shooting]

Shantanu Das


  1. Oh, what an excellent understanding of situations! There is no surprise then that this country was ruled by the goras for so long and continues to be ruled by the black goras (in the pretext of globalisation and privatisation). Going by the same logic, why should our army men expect a salute from the general public, they are also paid to do their duty, aren't they? Why does Govt award them crores and crores of rupees on their martyrdom, afterall they are supposed to lay down their lives fighting for our security. So what is so great about them?

    As far as people staying back in public sector and not joining pvt sector is then probably you do not understand what this strike was all about! Do you expect the public sector to be a laboratory for the private sector to poach upon? People have left the public sector to join the pvt organisations only for a higher monetary benefit. and hence this strike. Even the armed forces expected a higher pay package for what they do.

    Where was the private sector when crude was hovering at $120 a barrel? Selling to foreigners. Govt subsidises PSUs. Yes, but don't the Private sector enjoys all the tax benefits and pay virtually zero tax. FYI, the Minimum Alternate Tax was brought for precisely this one pvt house which i suppose you are representing. and now when the crude prices have cooled down, these people want to come back into the market. We welcome you back.

    Anyway, I do not wish to comment further. As all the people in the pvt sector want a level playing field, I for one fully support them. Let the Pvt sector be allowed to open outlets in the remotest parts of the country and let their salaries be revised once in ten years after couple of years from the date which it is effective.

  2. Hi Satyam. Good comment!

    First, I do hope that you do not make the mistake of thinking it is me who wrote this. But yes I did say I agree. However my role as moderator is JUST to generate healthy debates to foster a thought process within PSUs and also the General Intelligensia our there. And I am glad that you have taken up the gauntlet. It would have been interesting to see the progress if the sender of the above email to me sees this (i hv sent link) and replies.

    Second, I do hope you and all readers understand that all this should be done UNEMOTIONALLY and without any ASSUMPTIONS.. Emotions make the person angry and the debate turns into a nasty fight and ASSUMPTIONS make you argue badly. Never make the assumption that the other person does not what he or she is talking about and never assume his or her occupation.

    Lastly I disagree with this "People have left the public sector to join the pvt organisations only for a higher monetary benefit. and hence this strike." Let us first understand that people leave jobs for different reasons, and these reasons vary with age. Money holds a greater part of the reason when you are young. As you grow up the in age and Corporate Hierarchy you also grow up in the famed Maslow's Hierarchy of needs and so you leave for reasons like lack of intelligent work, lack of pleasure at work, lack of the feeling that you are achieving something. Anyway I will leave the ground open to you readers for debate except when I initiated a post when I will reply.
    Shantanu Das


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