Bizarre war of words has broken out between two lobbies over how to go about privatizing the Oil & Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC), India’s most profitable public sector enterprise. One lobby, recommends that government should sell off 60% stake in 11 prime oilfields of ONGC to private companies. This seems to be the government’s own thinking because the proposal was aired by no less than the Directorate General of Hydrocarbons, the regulatory body for oil and natural gas, functioning under the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas.
Other lobby, in response, says why give away these prime fields, instead sell off a 18% of the government stake in ONGC to raise over Rs.410 billion at current market prices. By starting this debate, the real question as to whether ONGC needs to be privatized at all has been pushed aside. Remember: ONGC produces three quarters of India’s crude oil and two thirds of natural gas. It earned a profit of over Rs.200 billion and has assets worth Rs.4120 billion in 2016-17.