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ONGC proposes, Bengal disposes

Calcutta, March 8: The failure of the West Bengal government to provide adequate infrastructure facilities could force the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) to put its plans of fresh investment in the state on the back burner.

According to petroleum minister Ram Naik, ONGC has already spent over Rs 450 crore in the state over the last 35 years. It is ready to make a fresh investment of Rs 400 crore in the two prospective blocks, one near Digha coast and the other one in the Sunderbans. The company also plans to put in Rs 100 crore in the three blocks of coal bed methane in Bengal.

But, ONGC sources say the lack of proper infrastructure in the state has become a major stumbling block. Chairman Subir Raha today said that the company needs a bridge to be made at Madhokhali, 20 km north of Contai subdivision.

“If the bridge is not constructed, we cannot take the rigs to the spot for exploration. The existing bridge cannot take the load of the heavy equipment and could collapse any day,” he said.

The state government had promised to complete the work on the bridge soon. However, nothing has been done so far, he said.

“I had taken up the matter over three months back and was reassured. But the public works department is yet to do anything about it,” he said.

The bridge needs about Rs 67 lakh for completion and ONGC is ready to pitch in with one-third of the total cost.

Raha made it clear that the company would bring in the rig from Madhya Pradesh only if the bridge was made.

The company has proposed to invest Rs 30 crore initially to start exploration activities in the region.

And if is able to strike potential reserves, the investment will run into several hundreds crores.

Raha said a preliminary study shows the region has potential, but further exploration is needed for confirmation.

The ONGC chairman added that the company would start similar exploration jobs in the Sunderbans next winter if every thing goes in right direction.

Meanwhile, petroleum minister Ram Naik today ruled out imposition of surcharge on oil at the moment.

“There is no question of imposing any war surcharge now,” Naik said.

Asked if the government was toying with the idea of imposing any surcharge on oil if war ultimately broke out, the minister said: “We will cross the bridge when it comes.”

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