BY OUR STAFF REPORTER
GUWAHATI, July 22: The auctioning of oil fields was started in the days of the Congress Government and as many as 19 oil fields in Assam were auctioned during the Tarun Gogoi-led regime. This was stated by State Industry Minister Chandra Mohan Patowary in the Assembly on Friday.
The Centre will start the bidding process for 67 discovered small oil and gas fields across the country which have been lying undeveloped for many years. At least 12 such fields have been identified in the State which too would go under the hammer during the process.
Huge protests are being staged across the State by different political and social organisations against the auctioning of the 12 oil fields.
On this issue, Patowary said in the Assembly that auctioning of oil fields was started way back in 1998 under the New Exploration Licensing Policy formulated in 1992. From 1998 to 2012, 23 oil fields in Assam were auctioned.
He said the present 12 oil fields in Assam will be auctioned under HCELP policy formulated in 2015. Under the present policy, the government doesn’t need to pay compensation if the company concerned engaged in oil exploration doesn’t find oil after digging, but as per the earlier policy, it was just the opposite.
The Minister further said the Petroleum Ministry is now thinking of increasing the refining capacities of the State’s four oil refineries of Digboi, Numuligarh, Guwahati and Bongaigaon. These refineries have the capacity to produce 7 million MT of oil, but they are currently producing 4.1 million MT of oil, he said, adding that due to low production, the state needs to import oil from outside. The Minister further made it clear that Assam-based refineries and companies like OIL, ONGC, AGCL and AHAECL can take part in the auctioning process and there is no problem in that.
Earlier, questions were raised in the House by MLAs Ajanta Neog and Ramendra rayan Kalita, drawing attention of the Industry Minister Patowary. Neog demanded that a white paper be published by the State Government on the issue. Kalita alleged a suspected involvement of a section of state officials in the whole auctioning process and suggested to form an expert committee to examine the whole issue. The Opposition Congress and BJP’s partner AGP have strongly protested against the auctioning of oil fields in Assam.