Assam is witnessing mass protests and effigy burning of the month old Chief Minister Mr. Sonowal over his toothless stand on the privatisation of the 12 oil fields in Assam. Ironically, he once fought with the people of Assam for 'Tez Dim Tel Nidiu' (will give blood, not oil).
The supporters of Privatisation say that the protestors are ignorant and have no concrete reasons to protest. They are just wasting time and hampering development and creation of jobs.
I am however grateful that Assam has taken a stand on behalf of the whole country and has stood strong as an example to protect the country and its natural wealth from corruption and selfish capitalism.
Right from Govt. forcing ONGC to take the 450 billion dollar loan from World Bank in 1991 with the condition that oil fields have to be opened up to global private capital (when they could have easily raised capital instead); the controversial Panna-Mukta oilfields in Bombay High given to the Reliance-Enron consortium for a paltry 12 crores; false declaration of its actual potential, after ONGC had spent 7000 crores in getting that geological data etc (even Petroleum Minister Satish Sharma allegedly took 4 crores, ONGC top boss was involved); ONGC CMD S L Khosla joining Reliance after allegedly disclosing all 'work programme' through the then Director Mr. Ravi Bastia (who too joined Reliance) about ONGC's data about Krishna-Godavari basin. (Read the book - Gas Wars); allegations that one OIL CMD was directly involved in the giving out of Kharshang oil field to private ENI Group / Jubilant Group; to the disqualification of the auctioning of 214 coal blocks from 1993 to 2009 by the top judiciary in 2014 saying that "the entire exercise of allocation through screening committee route thus appears to suffer from the vice of arbitrariness and not following any objective criteria in determining as to who is to be selected or who is not to be selected."; it makes it evidently clear that the natural resources of India is in DANGER from selfish capitalist and corrupt officials/public servants/politicians (perhaps to fund elections).
The supposedly learned are saying that OIL and ONGC have said that they can't operate these oil fields because of lack of technical expertise and that the fields are too small for big players. The Petroleum Minister said, “Many of the big oil sector companies do not have the technology or managerial skills to exploit small oilfields and so we are allowing firms that have the technology and skill to bid for them”.
There is no truth in such statements. Can he produce the document certifying the first right of refusal by OIL and ONGC? One must read the editorial by an OIL employee today in Pratidin dated 11th July 2016. He says, 'there is an attempt to belittle the navratna OIL and maharatna ONGC with these false allegations'. He says, 'there is not a single instance that he knows when work has stopped due to lack of funds or technical expertise or infrastructure'. He further adds, 'when OIL has invested in exploration, excavation and even transportation of OIL/Gas from Sorojoni, baruahnagar, Dipling, Merem, Duwarmora and Jeraipathar, there is no question that OIL will now not be willing to do the only remaining work of taking out OIL/Gas' (and leave that to the private companies).
Guwahati-based political commentator and economic analyst Adip Kumar Phukan says, “That argument is wrong. OIL couldn’t work in the Jeraipathar field because of local resistance. The government failed to assure people about the safety of the Rohmoria embankment near the field. However, OIL is still extracting oil from Sorojoni”.
Also, who says that companies eager to bid are small companies? The second biggest group of Korea, ENI Group etc are not small companies in any parameter.
IS IT EVEN LEGAL?
With the various acts like the Coal Mines Nationalisation Act of 1973, Oil Field (Regulation and Development) Act of 1948, Petroleum and Natural Gas Rules of 1959, Petroleum and Minerals Pipeline Act of 1962, the citizens of India had given the authority to the central Government to become 'trustee' of the resources so that the resources are not used for commercial purposes, so that the resources are only used for the common welfare of the society without commercial baggages. The Govt. cannot become the AUCTIONEER of the property. They do not have the right to sell or lease the property of the people to a private entity.
In his petition to the Court regarding the Coal allocation, advocate Sanjay Parikh had referred to the 39th article of the constitution which says the Govt of the people is only responsible for the natural resources and therefore cannot be the auctioneer of the same.
The Supreme Court in its judgement relating to Coal Allocation has pointed out that 'The Coal Mine Nationalisation Act and further amendments in 1976 do not allow PSUs to mine coal for commercial use. The auctioning processes has therefore blatantly defeated the legislative policy in the Act'., and hence giving it to private companies may be termed as illegal.
This worry and the other concerns are evident in the emotions of the wide scale protests in the streets of Assam. Unless there is transparency, white papers being circulated in the public, we the citizens have to protest against such Govt. actions that may be detrimental to the welfare of the common people at large.
Protests are specially required when our minister Mr. Pradhan blatantly brags about Rs. 4000 crores coming to Assam's economy and not explaining how. It is specially required when there is public knowledge of corruption getting into the system of privatisation. It is specially required when there is no concrete reason the state cannot do the same work that a private company can.
When we have made acts that natural resources should not exploited for commercial reasons, the State can therefore exploit the natural resources by undertaking losses if needed be, for the common good of the people in providing electricity and employment. The funny question is why would there be losses, when private companies are so eager about these fields.
Lastly, Assam wont be left behind if these Oil fields are not privatized and in fact India will learn a lesson or two from Assam being a forefront leader in terms of opposing corruption and anti-national exploitation of natural resources. There are hundred other industries where private capital can bring in a change in Assam, namely Food Processing, Fisheries and Muga/Edi Silk..
Why are Governments so anti-national?