Dibrugarh, Jan. 8: The Oil and Natural Gas Corporation Ltd (ONGC) today suspended six agitating officers as the nationwide oil strike entered its second day today, raising fears of refineries in Assam being closed down.
The indefinite strike has been called by the Oil Sector Officers Association (OSOA) to protest against the governments failure to implement its 11-point charter of demands, including higher salaries.
Sources said four of the six officers suspended by the oil major for joining the agitation were posted at Assam Asset, a division of ONGC in Sivasagar district, and two at Cinnamara in Jorhat district.
The suspended officers are A.K. Baruah, the vice-president of the Association of Scientific and Technical Officers (ASTO), Assam Asset, Manoj Bhagawati, the secretary of ASTO, Assam Asset, Safaruddin Ahmed and Diyanuddin Ahmed, both executive members of ASTO, Assam Asset, Ranjit Tamuly, the vice-president of ASTO, Jorhat, and S.S. Sodhi, the secretary of ASTO, Jorhat.
As news of the suspensions broke out at ONGC offices in the state, the officers grew more agitated and decided to intensify their strike.
There is no question of bowing down. Let them do whatever they like, we will continue with our strike, Bhagawati said.
We are prepared to go to any extent to ensure that our strike is a success. We have been facing injustice for almost two-and-a-half years now. We cannot wait any further, he added.
The news of suspension was conveyed to all the officers by an SMS sent by A.K. Verma, the executive director of ONGC, Assam Asset.
When the officers sought a clarification from Verma, he said he had done what he had been asked to do by the companys higher-ups.
Operations on the fields, in offices and at refineries in Assam were hit hard today with the officers not reporting for duty in the various offices of the ONGC across the state.
Production from wells stopped, plugging supply of crude oil by Oil India Limited (OIL) and ONGC to the Digboi Refinery of Indian Oil Corporation Limited (IOCL), the Numaligarh Refinery Limited (NRL), the Guwahati Refinery and the Bongaigaon Refinery and Petro-chemicals Limited (BRPL).
The sources said if the strike continued for another day or two, operations in all the four refineries of the state would have to be stopped due to non-availability of crude oil.
Of the four units in Guwahati Refinery, two ó the main crude distillation unit and the secondary processing unit ó were stopped late last night while another was stopped today. The only unit running might have to be stopped at any point of time, a source said.
The annual refining capacity of the four refineries in the state is an accumulated 7.3 million metric tonnes.
A senior NRL official said fuel stations across the state had started drying up and almost all the stations would run out of fuel by tomorrow.
The NRL fuel station, which is located right in front of the refinery, had dried up yesterday itself and the stations at Jorabat and Zoo Road, Guwahati, might run out of fuel at any point of time, he added.
Gas supply to the three power stations and fertiliser plant in Upper Assam has remained unaffected so far but sources said they did not know what would happen there tomorrow. The OSOA gas supply to the power plants is open and it has exempted 100 of its members so that emergency services were not affected.
The three stations are Lakwa Thermal Power Station, Namrup Thermal Power Station and Kathalguri Power Station. Even the Namrup-based Brahmaputra Valley Fertiliser Corporation Limited is running smoothly.
The Oil India Executive Employees Association (OIEEA), a constituent of the OSOA, expressed concern over the drastic steps taken by the managements of the companies as well as the government to deal with the striking officers.
The associations secretary and spokesman, Ajoy Borthakur, said over phone from Duliajan: The suspension of officers is unfortunate. We will demand revocation of the decisions. He added that they would discuss the situation with chief minister Tarun Gogoi to ensure that the people of the state do not have to suffer for the strike.