New Delhi: Efforts by Oil and Natural Gas Corp. Ltd, or ONGC, to protect its assets in Assam from insurgent attacks have run into trouble, with its board resisting some provisions in the plan, according to a top executive at the state-run exploration and production company.
The board has voiced reservations about ONGC undertaking to pay for all liabilities related to security personnel, ranging from health care expenses to post-retirement benefits, said the executive, who didn’t want to be identified.
ONGC has signed in-principle agreements with Gujarat, Assam and Tripura governments to raise a battalion-sized force in each, with a strength of around 1,100 personnel, to protect its assets.
“While our plans with the other states are progressing, there are some problems regarding the Assam battalion’s plans as the board has objected to all liability to be borne by the company,” said the official, without explaining why the board objected only to the plan for Assam.
“We will take the proposal again to the board and are hopeful that these issues will be smoothened out,” he added.
Insurgency in Assam has already affected ONGC’s Rs4,000 crore Assam Renewal Plan to replace its exploration and production infrastructure in the state, including old pipelines and crude-oil gathering stations, as reported by Mint on 9 March 2007.
Some of these haven’t been replaced since the company started operating the fields in the mid 60s, and pose both environmental and safety hazards.
ONGC has three fields at Rudrasagar, Geleky and Lakwa in Assam, with an annual crude yield of 11 million barrels (1.5 million tonnes).
“We have been under threat in Assam,” the ONGC executive said. The company is one of the biggest employers in the North-eastern state.
Over the years, the state has been the site of violence orchestrated by rebel groups such as the United Liberation Front of Asom, the National Democratic Front of Bodoland, the Bodo Liberation Tigers and the Muslim United Liberation Tigers of Assam.
“There are certain teething problems whenever new initiatives are taken which are off the conventional line,” said intelligence and security expert Ajit Doval.
“If there is a political will, the problems can be sorted out to the satisfaction of all concerned,” he said.