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9

Oil blockade in Assam cripples crude production

The production and transportation of crude in Assam was hit as thousands ...

The production and transportation of crude in Assam was hit as thousands of protestors on Monday enforced a four-day oil blockade alleging recruitment irregularities, officials here said.

The Thalua Nibanua Sangram Samity, the apex body of local unemployed youths, called a 100-hour blockade from 5 a.m.on Monday alleging irregularities in appointments of some 300 unskilled workers in the state-owned Oil India Limited, the country's main oil exploration company.

"There has already been a production loss of about 1,100 kiloliters of crude oil, with picketers preventing exploration and drilling works," OIL spokesman Prasanta Barkatoky said over the telephone from the company headquarters in Duliajan, 525 km east of the state's principal city Guwahati.

Police said protestors pelted OIL vehicles with stones and tried to disrupt drilling and exploration work in oilfields around Duliajan.

"Incidents of violence were reported from various oil sites despite heavy security presence," a police official said. "Some incidents of picketers trying to forcibly resist OIL employees from attending office were also reported."

The blockade was called to press OIL authorities to revoke a list of 300 unskilled workers recruited for employment.

"An agreement with OIL had spelt out that all unskilled workers would be local Assamese and strict recruitment norms would be followed," T Gogoi, a striking leader, said.

"Among the 300 youths short-listed by OIL are many from affluent backgrounds, depriving the poor and the needy of jobs." OIL authorities denied charges of irregularities in recruitment.

"Our recruitment policy is very transparent and we are confident the list prepared by us was in consonance with the norms stipulated by the company," Barkatoky said.

The striking leaders claimed the blockade had crippled production in various oilfields.

"Thousands of local youths are on their way to the OIL headquarters to take part in the agitation and we shall see to it that crude oil production comes to a halt," Gogoi said.

"We are prepared to shed blood if required but at no cost shall we allow OIL to do whatever they feel like."

The company estimated a potential loss of Rs. 340 million a day if production were to stop entirely.

"It will be a tremendous loss to the country's economy if operational works are to stop as a result of the blockade," the spokesman said.

India's annual crude oil production stands at 60 million tonnes annually, almost half the country's needs. Assam produces about 3.29 million tonnes a year.

The 1,160-km-long crude pipeline from Duliajan to the Barauni refinery in Bihar is one of Asia's longest and oldest trunk pipelines.

"A disruption in oil production here means it will also hit normal operational works in other refineries in Assam and elsewhere in the country," an OIL official said.

economictimes.com