The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Oil saboteurs face shoot-at-sight

Jorhat, May 30: Acts of sabotage by disgruntled contract workers during a mutiny against Oil India Ltd (OIL) last week have prompted the Assam government to issue shoot-at-sight orders against anybody who targets the company’s installations in the twin districts of Tinsukia and Dibrugarh.

The decision was taken during a meeting of senior government officials, OIL honchos and representatives of the contract workers at Duliajan police station yesterday. Deputy inspector-general of police Bhaskar Jyoti Mahanta said strong action would be taken against anybody involved in incidents of sabotage at OIL installations.

Contract labourers campaigning for a wage hike and better service conditions had gone on the rampage on May 23 and 24, setting fire to as many as four effluent pits adjacent to major oil wells in the two districts. The protesters also targeted permanent employees of the oil company.

No incident of sabotage has since been reported, but the impasse on wages and service conditions continues. Representatives of the Contractual Labour Sangram Samity are understood to have assured company officials that they would not encourage vandalism even if they resume the agitation.

“We categorically told the striking employees that security forces would go to any extent to prevent sabotage,” Mahanta said later.

The company management, too, was asked to take all necessary steps to prevent oil spills. OIL spokesman Prasanta Borkotoky said all possible measures had already been taken.

On the deadlock in negotiations between the management and the striking contract workers, Borkotoky said another round of discussions was slated for June 2. “We are looking forward to the next round of talks and hopeful of a solution.”

The last round of talks was held in Dibrugarh.

Apart from higher wages, the contract workers have been demanding regularisation of service and all facilities enjoyed by permanent employees.

The mutiny by contract workers began the very day OIL chairman-cum-managing director M.R. Pasrija reached Duliajan to take stock of security arrangements for executives who had threatened to go on strike after the kidnapping of a drilling engineer.

The engineer, Kadri Mohan Rao, was found lying in a roadside ditch the morning after he was kidnapped while going to work.

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