Fair Wage policy for Contract Labor Of Oil and Natural Gas Sector in India: A study of ONGC limited

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Written by: Dhimaan Dutta

To understand the waging system we need to first see what is actually a wage policy. So, the first thing and most common thing which comes to everyone’s mind is

What is Wage Policy?

Wage policy refers to the legislation of the government towards the labourers and daily wage workers for maintaining their minimum wages in a particular state or country for their better economic and well-being conditions. It is mainly done for the purpose of achievement of specific objectives of social and economic policies running in the country.

India with a vast amount of labour presents the world with the most competitive labour rates of around $3 per day turning out to be not more than 70$ per month, all over Asia. This is not the ultimate level all of this depends on what are the geographical conditions of the area and many more other criteria. In India, the minimum wage system is extremely complicated. State governments establish minimum salaries for employees in specific “scheduled” jobs, resulting in 1709 varied rates across the country. Because the coverage is incomplete, these rates are expected to apply to 66 per cent of wage employees.

According to NSSO, the real average daily wage more than quadrupled between 1993–94 and 2011–12. The most vulnerable groups, such as rural employees, informal workers, casual workers, female workers, and low-paid occupations, have witnessed higher wage increases. Despite this, significant inequalities still exist. Only a small percentage of regular/salaried employees, particularly in metropolitan regions, received higher average salaries, whereas highly trained professionals earned higher average wages.

The Disaster

The tragedy that happened at midnight of May 16, 2021 killing at least 51 people on board is highly pathetic. This should not have happened. The PAPAA 305 is under contact with Afcons. On May 13, the India Meteorological Department issued the first warnings about a tropical storm approaching southern India in the Arabian Sea. The storm was dubbed Cyclone Tauktae the next day as it headed into Kerala with a wind speed of 25 knots. The question was very clear even after the company knew about the cyclone or disaster, it still pushed their employees into this great disaster.

Tauktae quickly strengthened over the following three days as it travelled northwards over India’s western coast, causing the IMD to upgrade it from a “severe cyclonic storm” to a “very severe” and, eventually, a “very severe cyclonic storm” at its peak on May 17. In reaction to the IMD’s red signals, state authorities in Kerala, Karnataka, Goa, Maharashtra, and Gujarat suspended flights, evacuated coastal people, halted all fishing activity, and deployed military and disaster response teams.

According to the ONGC, this was the limit of its involvement, as many of the boats’ operations were entrusted to Afcons and the businesses it had subcontracted. “We are not seafarers, we are oil and gas experts,” an ONGC executive stated in a statement to the Indian Express on May 21. On May 13, the ONGC said that it quickly informed everyone at Mumbai High about IMD’s first cyclone warnings. The ONGC’s permanent installations were told to go into “sea survival mode,” which means all activities are suspended in the event of bad weather, while 99 floating boats at the oil fields were told to relocate to safer areas.


The ONGC operates three main offshore oil fields found in the Arabian Sea in the 1960s and 1970s: Mumbai High, 170 kilometres off the coast of Mumbai, Bassein and Satellite Fields, 80 kilometres north of the city, and Neelam and Heera Fields, 45 kilometres south of the city. The aftermaths of a disaster are much more disastrous. There came a rift between ONGC and AFCONS that what needs to be done and who is liable to pay the damages to the workers and labourers on site, passed away or had been struck with severe illness.

Many officials from ONGC it was totally the responsibility of the AFCONS, to call back the vessels on site. ONGC’s sole responsibility was to inform and get the vessel in-charge company to know about what is the actual and current situation. The ONGC union’s claims, according to Afcons, are “unsubstantiated” and “misinformed.”

“It is widely known and documented that all Afcons chartered barges were ordered to demobilise from the construction area by May 14/15, long before the full force of Cyclone Tauktae,” says the statement. Not only did Afcons ignore cyclone warnings, but they also opted to put work objectives ahead of the safety of hundreds of workers and sailors. On the 16th and 17th of May, Papaa-305 was not the only ship stuck in the middle of Tauktae.

It was one of 99 supply ships, drillships, barges, and tugboats deployed to work in ONGC’s Arabian Sea offshore oil and gas facilities. The miscommunication and also some overconfidence of the staff members as well were questioned as mentioned by the survivors. The ONGC is not ready to claim any responsibility for the deaths of the workers.

After the India Meteorological Department initially issued warnings about an oncoming storm on May 13, the majority of the 99 boats had evacuated to safer ports. Six vessels, however, did not, and two of them capsized during the storm. Papaa-305 was one among them. The tugboat MV Varapradha, which lost 11 of the 13 crew on board, was the other. 

The Intervention of the Ministry

The Government started a high-level committee inquiry, headed by the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas on May 19, after the filing of FIR by two survivors from the ship and booking the companies under the charge of Section 299 of IPC i.e. Culpable Homicide.

They claimed the tugboat was deployed even under bad conditions which were not seaworthy and could not be properly sailed in the sea, resulting in the sinking of the vessels. The three-member committee, which includes top officials from the shipping, petroleum, and defence ministries, has yet to conclude its investigation into who should be held responsible for the May 17 event.

There came a rift between ONGC and AFCONS that what needs to be done and who is liable to pay the damages to the workers and labourers on site, passed away or had been struck with severe illness. The claims are just getting here and there between the companies, but the lives which are lost and the family members who are left behind, what about them and what about that? Also, there is a situation in which is to be laughed at or cried I could not make it. After the site visit of ONGC, the health and safety section starts with a top-notch quote, “All accidents are preventable.”

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