By Our Staff Reporter
Guwahati, July 14: Facing all-round flak over its decision to lease out 12 State oilfields to private parties, the Assam government today tried to build up a case, arguing how its move would benefit the State economy.
In separate statements, both Chief Minister Sarbanda Sonowal and Industry minister Chandra Mohan Patwary underlined the benefits the State would derive from the auction and appealed to protesting organizations not to send out “wrong sigls”.
“The people of the State stand to benefit if the oilfields are developed. It will create jobs besides improving the State’s economy. These oilfields have been lying defunct since 25/30 years,” Sonowal said, addressing the 28th foundation day celebrations of the All Tai Ahom Students Union here, affirming that his government will ensure that the State’s interest is not sacrificed.
Industry minister Patwary said the notion that Assam stands to lose if private companies develop these oilfields is wrong.
“No other State is witnessing agitation over the move to privatize oilfields. In this e-auction, any firm, even State-run companies, can participate,” Patwary said.
Referring to a remark by former Industry minister Pradyut Bordoloi that in Gujarat, the State government, through a notification, had handed over the oilfields to a State-run company, Patwary said the Gujarat government company is roping in MNCs to operate them.
Due to lack of infrastructure, Assam Gas Company could not participate in a previous auction, he claimed.
Patwary said firms from Gujarat have been engaged in some oilfields in Margherita, but that does not mean that “the government has given them ownership of the land”.
The minister said the four refineries in the State are importing crude oil from outside at present. “The government plans to upgrade the capacities of these refineries. We will need more crude oil. Besides, a lot of other industries will come up once the crude oil production increases,” he said.
Patwary said that the move to lease out oilfields is not a new policy. “The New Exploration Licensing Policy has been there since 1997,” he claimed.
Road shows on the upcoming auction of India’s 67 discovered small hydrocarbon fields will be launched in the US and Cada by Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, an official statement said on Tuesday.
Bidding for 67 discovered small oilfields will open between July 15 and October 31. Twelve of these are in Assam.
The auction will be under the new Hydrocarbon Exploration and Licensing Policy (HELP) approved in March, based on a revenue-sharing model as opposed to cost-and-output-based norms earlier.
The offered fields are estimated to hold 625 million barrels of oil and gas reserves.
Meanwhile, Patwary also urged the Central government to restore the North East Industry & Investment Promotion Policy (NEIIPP) which expires in March next year.