Government invites Applications for New Chairman of Indian Oil Corporation (IOC)

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The government has issued a call for applications for the position of the new chairman of the Indian Oil Corporation (IOC), resolving the uncertainty surrounding the tenure of the current chairman, Shrikant Madhav Vaidya.

According to an advertisement posted on the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas’s website, the government is seeking applications from engineers, chartered accountants, and cost accountants with postgraduate management degrees from reputable institutions. The applicants should also have at least five years of experience in leadership roles. The deadline for applications is July 3.

The Ministry has set the age eligibility cutoff at 58 years for internal candidates and 57 years for external candidates, with a retirement age of 60 years.

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Shrikant Madhav Vaidya, who assumed the role of chairman of the Indian Oil Corporation on July 1, 2020, was originally scheduled to retire on August 31, 2023, when he turned 60. However, in an unusual move, he was granted a one-year extension on a contract basis beyond his superannuation date. This extension was effective from September 1, 2023, until August 31, 2024, according to an official order dated August 4, 2023.

Subsequently, a three-member search-cum-selection committee was formed to identify Vaidya’s successor after August 31, 2024. The committee is led by the chairperson of the Public Enterprises Selection Board (PESB), along with the oil secretary and the former chairman of Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd (HPCL), M K Surana.

However, the committee faced challenges in resolving the issue of age eligibility. Initially, the ministry proposed considering candidates who had not yet turned 61 years old, which would have made Vaidya eligible for the position. However, this proposal did not find favor with the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO). Consequently, the government reverted to the previous system of appointing heads of Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs) with a retirement age of 60.

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Prior to Vaidya, no chairman of a Maharatna PSU had been granted an extension beyond the age of 60 in recent years. In fact, last year, the government denied Ranjan Kumar Mohapatra an eight-month extension as director (human resources) of IOC until his superannuation age.

The Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas recommended an extension of Vaidya’s service after the PESB failed to make any recommendation for the next chairperson of IOC after interviewing 10 candidates, including the managing director of Chennai Petroleum Corporation Ltd (CPCL), Arvind Kumar.

This is the second recent instance where the PESB was unable to find a suitable candidate for the top position at prominent oil companies, resulting in retired personnel being appointed. On June 3, 2021, the PESB did not find any suitable candidates from a pool of nine applicants, including two serving IAS officers, for the position of head at ONGC.

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Following this, the ministry formed a search-cum-selection panel and appointed Arun Kumar Singh, who had retired from Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd (BPCL) at the age of 60, to head ONGC. Although Singh was initially ineligible to apply, the eligibility rules were modified to accommodate individuals who had reached the age of 60.

A similar, but more significant, relaxation of the age limit (allowing individuals up to the age of 61 to be considered) was being sought for the Indian Oil Corporation.

The existing rules for hiring board-level positions in PSUs allow for the consideration of internal candidates with a minimum of two years of service remaining before retirement and three years for external candidates.

According to the advertisement issued by the Ministry, the new chairman of IOC will be selected by the search-cum-selection committee.

The Indian Oil Corporation refines crude oil into various products such as petrol, diesel, liquid petroleum gas (LPG), and aviation turbine fuels. It also produces petrochemicals and operates CNG retail outlets.

Aside from being a key player in India’s fuel supply, the IOC is leading India’s energy transition by shifting from fossil fuel-based energy sources, including oil, natural gas, and coal, to renewable energy sources like wind, solar, and lithium-ion batteries.

The IOC owns and operates 10 oil refineries with a total capacity of 80.6 million tonnes, accounting for nearly one-third of India’s total refining capacity of 251.2 million tonnes. It also owns 36,285 out of the country’s 86,855 petrol pumps and half of the nation’s 25,386 LPG distributors. Additionally, it manages 131 out of 283 aviation fuel stations in the country.

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