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Students' protest in Assam hits oil production

India produces 30 million tonnes of crude oil annually, with Assam accounting for 5 million tonnes of total.

india Updated: May 01, 2006 22:18 IST
Syed Zarir Hussain (IANS)
Syed Zarir Hussain (IANS)

Hundreds of student protestors in Assam forced several key oil installations in the state to shut down on Sunday, hitting crude oil production severely, officials said.

Three influential student groups in Assam launched a 72-hour oil blockade from Saturday seeking a Rs 4 billion economic development package from premier exploration firm Oil India Limited (OIL).

"The entire transportation of crude oil through tankers from oil collecting stations has come to a halt and this in turn would affect the operations," OIL spokesman Nripen Bharali said from the headquarters at Duliajan in eastern Assam.

"The protests have hit hard our operations, and the production loss till late Friday is estimated to be about 1,200 to 1,500 kilo litres. The entire operations is likely to be severely affected today (Sunday) with the protest becoming stronger," Bharali said.

India produces about 30 million tonnes of crude oil annually, with Assam accounting for about five million tonnes of the total. OIL produces about 3.5 million tonnes of crude in Assam annually.

The All Assam Muttock Yuba Chattra Parishad, All Tai Ahom Students' Union, and the All Assam Moran Students' Union have jointly called the strike demanding a fair deal from OIL.

"We shall intensify the protest and make sure no one is allowed to work in the oilfields," Dilip Bora, a student leader, said.

Police said protestors damaged at least half-a-dozen vehicles carrying OIL officials for work on Sunday.

"We have put additional security forces in vulnerable areas and in other key installations," a senior police official said requesting anonymity.

The student groups accuse OIL of depriving locals of jobs and contracts, besides charges that the company was not doing any community development works in the area where their oilfields are located.

OIL officials deny the charges of discrimination in employment and say the company was committed to carrying out development works in the region.

"Most of the charges levelled by the student groups are baseless. The demand for a Rs 4 billion economic package is rather absurd as we have been pumping in lot of money towards development in the region," Prasanta Barkakati, a senior OIL official, said.

Assam has over 1.3 billion tonnes of proven crude oil and 156 billion cubic meters of natural gas reserves of which about an estimated 58 per cent of these hydrocarbon reserves are yet to be explored.

Assam currently produces about 5 million cubic meters of natural gas annually.

Frequent protests and strike calls by student groups and separatists have severely hampered crude oil production in the insurgency-hit state of 26 million people.

Terrorists in Assam have often targeted oil and gas installations - at least a dozen crude and gas pipelines were blown up by rebels of the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (Ulfa) in the run-up to this year's Republic Day celebrations on January 26.

The Ulfa in January slapped a whopping Rs 5 billion extortion demand on the state-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC), India's most valuable listed company.

The company refused to pay the extortion money. ONGC produces about 1.6 million tonnes of crude oil annually in Assam.

First Published: Apr 30, 2006 15:59 IST