The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Flames leap out of ‘torched’ oil pits

Dibrugarh, May 23: Two effluent treatment pits were set on fire near the Zorajan oil collecting station today, a day after contractual Oil India labourers clashed with police in Duliajan, prompting a lathicharge which left more than 70 injured.

Fire tenders were struggling till late in the evening to douse the blaze, which was noticed around noon.

OIL group general manager Jyanjit Kumar Talukdar confirmed that the pits were set on fire but refused to give details, saying he was away from Duliajan today. Most of the senior company officials declined to comment, saying they were “waiting for details”.

At least 13 people were arrested from Naharkatia and three from Duliajan this morning for trying to “disrupt” law and order.

The number of wounded in yesterday’s clash went up to 70 after several injured people, who had gone into hiding after the lathicharge, admitted themselves to hospitals for treatment.

Officials of Oil India Limited, shaken by the kidnapping of drilling engineer, Kadri Mohan Rao, who was later found lying in a roadside ditch, got another jolt after around 2,500 contractual labourers fought a pitched battle with police yesterday, demanding better pay and working conditions. Sonaram Khanikar, circle officer of Tengakhat block, deputy superintendent of police (border) Satyajit Nath, Duliajan police station in-charge Manik Goswami and around a dozen more security personnel were wounded in stone pelting by the workers. The police caned the protesters and fired teargas shells in retaliation.

Representatives of OIL’s management and district administration officials today met at the Dibrugarh deputy commissioner’s office to discuss the security scenario.

“We have decided to call representatives of the labourers by May 27 so that the problem is settled amicably. We appeal to the workers to come for discussions,” the company’s chief industrial relations manager, V.K. Verma, said.

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