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Promises at Baghjan

Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal and Union Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan’s visit


Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  16 Jun 2020 2:30 AM GMT

Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal and Union Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan's visit to the Baghjan oil-well blast site in Tinsukia district and the announcements and promises they made before the affected people need to be examined for several reasons. One, it took the Chief Minister over 15 days to visit Baghjan. Two, his Industry Minister had a few days ago reportedly antagonized the affected people by allegedly making some unnecessary remarks. Three, the police should have arrested a couple of persons who were prima facie responsible for the accident which soon became a huge disaster. But then, the affected people of Baghjan, whose individual losses are yet to be ascertained, are apparently happy that Chief Minister Sonowal – whose ancestral village is not far away from there – has finally met them and has announced a slew of measures in the form of a compensatory package. Two most important announcements that he made are – that experts from Canada, Australia, US and Singapore would be able to control the fire soon, and that the persons responsible for the incident won't be spared. Sonowal has very categorically, and in the presence of Dharmendra Pradhan, stated that Oil India Ltd must ensure the security and safety of all stakeholders in the production of crude and oil products, and that the PSU must ensure that no such tragedy should recur in the future. Sonowal has also promised "maximum" compensation to the affected families after a proper assessment. But then the Chief Minister's announcements have also exposed certain very serious developmental lapses that successive governments as well as the oil major have committed over the years while exploring and extracting oil and gas from villages like Baghjan in oil-rich upper Assam districts. For instance, there is no proper hospital or healthcare centre and a veterinary hospital at Baghjan, as also no good high school. There is no good potable drinking water facility in and around Baghjan. That Chief Minister Sonowal has announced construction of a pucca road connecting Baghjan to Tinsukia also exposes the fact that while such villages are floating on rich natural resources, they have to wait for a major tragedy to get a proper motorable road to reach the nearest district hospital. Baghjan however is not an isolated story amid the contribution that natural resources like oil, gas and coal (and till 1996 timber) of the upper Assam districts make to the national economy. The development status of most villages amid the oilfields and gas-fields are by and large the same.

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