Guwahati, Oct. 22: The once-flourishing crude oil theft racket in Upper Assam has resumed operations, with Sivasagar police foiling one such attempt today in the wee hours.
The district administration has announced a cash award of Rs 2 lakh to anyone who will be able to provide information about the members of the gang.
The thugs who tried to steal crude oil from an ONGC pipeline, however, managed to give police the slip after brief exchange of fire in the Serekapar area. An oil tanker and valves used to carry out the theft have been seized.
The owner of the tanker (NL02D 6845), from Golaghat district, has been identified.
The police, however, declined to disclose his name as he is yet to be apprehended.
The superintendent of police, Sivasagar, Shyamal Prasad Saikia, said the police had identified Moran, Halwating and Serekapar as the three spots where goons had recently made attempts to steal crude oil from pipelines.
Halwating is barely 2km from the house of Putul Gogoi, the alleged kingpin of an oil pilferage racket.
His arrest a few years back, had kicked up a storm when he insinuated that politicians and senior police officers were involved in the racket.
Saikia said: “It is no longer an organised racket but a few people involved with it earlier, sometimes try to pilfer oil. We are taking all necessary steps to check crude oil theft.”
Additional superintendent of police Manabendra Rai said that crude oil theft had almost stopped after the arrest of Gogoi though some goons made occasional attempts.
“Yesterday, when almost the entire police force was busy with Bijaya Dashami celebrations, they tried their luck,” he said.
“Hoodlums try to steal crude oil on stormy nights when heavy rain forces people to stay indoors. Monthly meetings are held with ONGC and Oil India Limited officials as we need support from the oil sector employees to stop oil pilferage.”
Investigations had earlier revealed that stolen crude oil, a cheap substitute for furnace oil, finds its way to tea garden factories.
“Some tea factories find it a better deal as a tanker full of stolen crude oil can be purchased at a price that is at least Rs 80,000 cheaper than a tanker containing furnace oil,” an officer at Kamargaon police outpost in Golaghat district said.
A police team at Kamargaon outpost, located by the side of the National Highway 37, intercepted two oil tankers belonging to P.G. Enterprise, owned by Gogoi in 2004.