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The government on Wednesday appointed B N Talukdar, director for exploration at Oil India Ltd, as the head of directorate general of hydrocarbons, signalling an end to the highly technical body's confrontationist run under a bureaucrat appointed by former oil minister S Jaipal Reddy.
A search committee under petroleum secretary Vivek Rae had in August chosen Talukdar, who has 37 years of oil-hunting experience behind him, to replace R N Choubey, a 1981 batch IAS officer of the Tamil Nadu cadre handpicked for the post by Reddy almost two years back.
A petroleum engineering graduate from Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad, Talukdar, 58, has been spearheading OIL's exploration, development, reservoir management and drilling activities since December 2007. Talukdar, with his inside knowledge and hands-on experience, is expected to take a more balanced and pragmatic approach to improve the overall sentiment in the sector. In Oil India, he is known as a person who can take calls based on the situation on the ground. His attitude, thus, would fit well with oil minister M Veerappa Moily's desire to move things and improve investment climate for expanding domestic oil hunt to ensure India's energy security.
Choubey's tenure saw DGH toeing the hard line taken by the ministry against Mukesh Ambani's Reliance Industries Ltd and other private explorers. It was during Choubey's leadership that the DGH recommended slapping a penalty of $1.8 billion on RIL for failing to produce the promised quantity of gas from its Andhra offshore field. While most of that hard line was taken at the behest of the federal auditor, which had criticized DGH under his predecessor - V K Sibal - for being soft on RIL, Choubey's missionary zeal to act tough with explorers in general did not go down well with the industry. Many of the recommendations were attributed to lack of understanding of the intricacies and peculiarities of the exploration business.
Eyebrows were raised since Choubey was appointed without the post being advertised. Neither was any selection panel formed to choose among candidates.
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