Policemen firing rubber bullets at Baghjan protesters

Tinsukia: Several people, including policemen, were injured when security personnel used force to disperse protestors who were allegedly preventing OIL authorities from clearing materials from its Baghjan oil well site, which was the spot of a major fire last year, in Assam’s Tinsukia district on Saturday, a senior police officer said.

The Oil India Limited (OIL) had been trying to move out the materials at its now-closed Baghjan oil well but a section of local people has been reportedly resisting it, maintaining that they will allow the site to be cleared only after their entire compensation amount from the PSU is paid.

Circle officer of Doomdooma, R Bhardwaj, said they had been trying for months to pacify the Baghjan villagers. The locals received interim compensation as per the NGT order to not obstruct OIL from removing their vehicle, machinery, pump house and stores that were brought in at Baghjan to control the blowout and douse the fire, he added. “However, they again laid a blockade and seized the planned movement on Saturday,” he told EastMojo.

A fire tender damaged during the protests

Protestors from Baghjan revenue village were requested to lift the blockade, but they started pelting stones and injured six policemen besides breaking glass panes of a fire tender belonging to OIL. “Left with no choice, security forces had to use tear gas, wield batons and fire rubber bullets to disperse the protestors,” Bhardwaj said, adding, “One protester got a rubber bullet injury and was shifted to a government hospital immediately.”

Also Read: OIL officials barred from investigating Assam’s Baghjan blowout: SC

Bhardwaj said, “OIL managed to remove 60 per cent of their stuck vehicles, trailers, big size JCB type vehicles, pump houses, pipes used for boring and other high-end machinery. The remaining stuff will be evacuated tomorrow under security cover.”

“We have detained three persons for damage to public property and action will be taken as per law,” he added.

Also Read: Baghjan blowout: Assam’s forest dept counts ₹25K cr in ecological damage

Meanwhile, locals have alleged high handedness of district administration and security forces.

“Locals were peacefully protesting and demanding final compensation before the OIL took their equipment. The affected families feared that OIL would abandon them just like the well, once they were allowed to move out their equipment, and affected families will be left to run from door to door to get their final compensation,” sources said.

Sources said over 18 persons have been injured in the police action.

A blowout had occurred at Well No 5 in the Baghjan oil field in May last year, resulting in a leak of natural gas. The leaking well subsequently caught fire on June 9, 2020, and resulted in three deaths.

An estimated loss of Rs 25,000 crore and a biodiversity loss of 55 per cent have been caused b the blowout, according to an inquiry report prepared by an official of the state Forest Department.

Regarding compensation to the people near the Baghjan well, OIL earlier said it had deposited the money estimated by the Tinsukia district administration and the National Green Tribunal after surveying 2,756 families.

(With inputs from PTI)

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