Protest over ONGC pipeline leak continues in Tamil Nadu, situation calm, says CM
Chennai/Thanjavur: The situation at Kathiramangalam village in Thanjavur district, where the locals are up in arms against the leak in an Oil and Natural Gas Corp. (ONGC) pipeline, is calm and adequate security has been arranged, Tamil Nadu chief minister K. Palaniswami said on Monday.
Shops in Kathiramangalam remained closed for the third day on Monday as part of the protest demanding plugging of the leak.
A public protest over the leak had turned violent three days ago, leading to use of “minimum force” by police. The villagers continued to voice safety concerns over the oil wells by hoisting black flags atop their houses and shops.
Palaniswami told the Assembly “minimum force” was used to disperse a stone-pelting crowd and the situation was calm now. “Police used minimum force after their pleas to stone pelting villagers to peacefully disperse were not heeded to,” he said in response to a special call attention moved by the opposition DMK and Congress on police lathicharge.
Palaniswami said ONGC has been pumping crude oil from some private lands at Kathiramangalam based on a June 2001 mining lease and that “there have been no problems so far.”
ONGC had also moved equipment for taking up maintenance activity in May this year on an oil-well, but locals had thought they were meant for methane extraction and staged a protest outside the ONGC office, he said.
A proposed methane extraction project on the Cauvery river bed has found stiff resistance from the local people. Following this, the state government held three stages of talks with locals and the ONGC, but they ended in “failure” since people were not convinced with the company’s explanation, he said.
Meanwhile, ONGC, after informing the district administration, took up maintenance activity with police protection on 2 June, but an anti-methane federation headed by Professor Jeyaraman “tried to prevent” it and they were arrested, the chief minister said.
Jeyaraman and others are now out on bail, he said, adding, locals staged a protest again on 5 June before police and revenue officials held talks with them following which they dispersed. On 30 June, following information of a “leak” on an ONGC pipeline on Kathiramangalam-Panthanallur road, officials from the company, police and revenue departments rushed to the spot, Palaniswami said.
“But, about 150 persons from Kathiramangalam assembled there, squatted on the road, prevented the ONGC officials and demanded that the district collector visit the place,” he said. Not heeding to the pleas of the district revenue officer and police officials, they “set on fire” hay and some other material lying on the road near a gas pipe well, the chief minister said.
Some of them also hurled stones at cops, injuring three police personnel including an inspector, besides a local villager, he said, adding, a police vehicle also suffered damage. A case has been filed in connection with the incident and 10 persons have been arrested and remanded to judicial custody, Palaniswami said.
“Presently, adequate security has been arranged at Kathiramangalam village and the situation is calm there,” he said.
Meanwhile, a group of officials on Monday visited the village to review the leak in the oil pipes and restoration work is on in full swing. Police personnel have been posted at 20 places, especially around ONGC oil wells, to prevent any untoward incident.