The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Flames of mutiny engulf OIL units

Dibrugarh, May 24: Contract workers who rose in mutiny against Oil India Ltd in Assam two days ago set ablaze a fourth effluent-treatment pit and a gas pipeline today, forcing the company to finally invite their leaders for negotiations on wages and service conditions.

The agitation by the contract workers affected work in several oilfields across Dibrugarh and Tinsukia districts.

Continuing from where they left off yesterday ' three effluent-treatment pits were torched in the first burst of arson ' a group of workers targeted another pit near the Tengakhat oil-collecting station number 321 just before noon. The fire was immediately controlled.

Around 12.40 pm, the protesters ignited the gas pipeline connecting well number 310 to the Kathalguri oil-collecting station, adjacent to a North East Electric Power Corporation plant. Fire-tenders doused the flames before they spread, sources said.

In Duliajan, the OIL headquarters, one among a group of irate contract labourers triggered a series of incidents by pelting stones at vehicles carrying permanent employees. At one place, the driver of a company vehicle retaliated with a sharp weapon, wounding a protester identified as Rajen Phukan.

Eight permanent employees were injured in a scuffle with contract workers near the Kathalani oil-collecting station around 8.30 pm. Central Industrial Security Force personnel fired in the air to manage the situation. The injured were rushed to the OIL Hospital.

A senior official in the Dibrugarh district administration claimed the situation was in control and that both sides had been “instructed” to resolve the issue amicably. “We have also told the OIL management to review and strengthen its internal security system.”

Sources in OIL said chairman-cum-managing director M.R. Pasrija met chief minister Tarun Gogoi yesterday and raised the security issue.

The mutiny by contract workers began the very day Pasrija arrived in Duliajan to take stock of security arrangements for executives, who had threatened to go on strike in the wake of the kidnapping of a drilling engineer. The engineer, Kadri Mohan Rao, had been kidnapped on Friday and was found lying in a roadside ditch the next morning.

Although the twin fires were doused in time, OIL’s operations in Moran, Tingkhong, Barekuri, Chabua and Dikom were disrupted.

Representatives of the OIL management will meet a delegation from the Contractual Labour Sangram Samity at 10.30 am on Friday to discuss the demand for higher wages. “A truce has to be announced soon because work has been affected. Both sides stand to lose if the impasse continues,” an OIL official said.

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