The Tragic loss of 66 lives of skilled permanent and contract employees of ONGC (Oil & Natural Gas Corporation), the country’s largest crude oil and gas exploration and drilling company, who were drowned at sea on May 17, has all the fingerprints of gross negligence and bureaucratic sloth for which the country’s 348 government-run public sector enterprises (PSEs) have acquired infamous reputation. These valuable lives were lost because of the failure of the company and/or its contracted agency Afcons Infrastructure Ltd, to evacuate them from an ONGC offshore Bombay High drilling platform in the Arabian Sea, despite six days prior warning that Cyclone Tautkae was headed their way with wind speeds of 150-180 kmph.
This egregious act of negligence raises renewed questions about the capabilities of the ONGC management. Since it was promoted in 1956 to extract crude oil and natural gas from India’s vast hydro-carbons-rich terrain, despite unlimited budgets and employing 48,000 personnel, this PSE’s annual production has inched up to a modest 32 million tonnes of crude oil in 2019-20. Against this India’s oil imports aggregated 228 million tonnes valued at Rs.8.81 lakh crore in that year.
This latest disaster (there have been others) caused by sheer negligence and typical disregard for skilled human resources, is further proof of ONGC’s ineptitude. Public opinion must ensure that the families of the dead and injured are paid heavy damages by the corporation and/or Afcons. Meanwhile, ONGC should be added to PSEs belatedly short-listed for privatisation by the BJP/NDA government at the Centre. Pronto.
Gender warriors damage
The Acquittal by a Mapusa Goa-based sessions court of Tarun Tejpal, publisher-editor of Tehelka, the once well-known investigative journalism magazine, on a rape charge on May 21, has come as a slap in the face of the monstrous regiment of women whose full-time occupation is to instigate gender wars. Now eight years after the incident, Tejpal has been acquitted on all charges. Implicit in the sessions court verdict — pronounced after the victim was cross-examined for over 100 hours — is acceptance of the defence that there was some degree of consent in the contretemps.
Tejpal’s predicament was aggravated by an ill-advised written (emailed) mea culpa sent by him to his victim apologising “unconditionally for the shameful lapse of judgement that led me to attempt a sexual liaison with you”. Yet this apology letter which should have worked in his favour was used by the monstrous regiment to initiate a national witch-hunt led by rabble-rousing Republic Television news anchor Arnab Goswami among others,who forced the Goa police to file formal sexual assault and rape charges against Tejpal. In the circumstances a minor sexual harassment incident, which should have ended with Tejpal’s mea culpa, ballooned into a cause celebre.
The true villains of this latter-day tragedy are feminist warriors who instigated the young woman journalist to blow up this minor sexual encounter into a full-blown rape case. Now even as they sit pretty on the sidelines, the careers of two media professionals and the promising
investigative magazine have been ruined. Well-intentioned legislation to prevent sexual assaults against women was hijacked to make a broader protest and a test case against male chauvinism. Following Tejpal’s acquittal the Goa government has vowed an appeal against the sessions court verdict. This indignation is unwarranted. Enough damage has been done.
Great institutions builder
I write this obituary with a heavy heart. Dr. Bijaya Sahoo, promoter-chairman of the Bhubaneswar-based SAI International Education Group, comprising the Sai International School (SIS, estb.2008), Sai Angan Preschool (reportedly the largest pre-primary in Asia, estb.2015), Sai International College of Commerce (2015) and Sai International Residential School (2018), all new millennium, globally benchmarked institutions with an aggregate enrolment of 5,260 students and 756 teachers, passed away in Hyderabad on June 3 at the relatively young age of 58, following a long battle with Covid-19. With his demise Indian education, especially the socio-economically backward eastern seaboard state of Odisha which he impacted on the education map of India, has suffered an incalculable loss.
A commerce and law graduate of Utkal University, Sahoo pressed on to qualify as a chartered and cost accountant and built a prosperous practice in Bhubaneswar, also co-promoting several business enterprises. However, in the new millennium he sold his practice and business interests after he experienced an epiphany to the effect that universal high quality preschool-class XII education is the best prescription to place the people of the outlier state of Odisha (pop.43 million), ill-famed for famines and starvation deaths in its Kalahandi district, on the road to sustained socio-economic development. For five years he toured the world visiting reputed schools and studying their best practices before promoting SIS, as the pioneer new age day-cum-boarding school of Odisha.
Shortly after the first unprecedented annual EducationWorld India School Rankings (EWISR) that rate primary-secondary schools countrywide on 14 parameters of education excellence was launched, Dr. Sahoo met with your editors and resolved to develop SIS on a broad front across all parameters. Fittingly in EWISR 2020- 21, SIS was ranked India’s #1 day-cum-boarding school. Simultaneously, Sai A ngan was ranked Eastern India’s #1 preschool. In recognition of his commitment to education excellence, in 2019, Dr. Sahoo was appointed special advisor with cabinet rank of the Odisha Adarsha Vidyalaya Sangathan with the mission to establish one CBSE-affiliated English medium government school in all 314 admin blocks of the state. Working with customary speed and efficiency, he ensured that 214 K-12 OAV schools were operationalised within two years before the deadly virus claimed him. The consolation is that the excellent education institutions he built will enshrine his memory forever.