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Date to fix Assam well blowout compensation

Formal assurance comes after family members and locals refuse to accept the body of Sukleswar Neog, 45, who reportedly consumed pesticide on Saturday
Smoke billows from the oil well fire at Baghjan.

Umanand Jaiswal   |   Guwahati   |   Published 21.07.20, 04:01 AM

The Tinsukia district administration has given a written assurance that the interim financial compensation will be resolved by July 27 to those affected by the May 27 Baghjan gas well blowout.

The formal assurance came on Sunday night after the family members and locals refused to accept the body of Sukleswar Neog, 45, who reportedly consumed pesticide on Saturday afternoon.

Local residents blocked roads  in protest and withdrew the blockade at night following intervention by the district administration officials to meet their compensation demands for Neog’s family and other affected people.

Neog’s body reached Baghjan in Tinsukia district from Assam Medical College and Hospital, Dibrugarh, where he died, at about 2.30pm on Sunday. Locals refused to accept it till the administration clarified its stand on the compensation issue because the “affected were getting restless and depressed in the relief camps”.

After six hours of intense negotiations, the district administration team gave in, Pranjal Gogoi, a local resident, said.

The officials gave a written assurance that the administration would provide Neog’s kin Rs 10 lakh in compensation, a government/Oil India Limited (OIL) job to his widow or next of kin and also bear the educational expenses of his five daughters, besides resolving the advance payment of compensation to the victim families of Baghjan-Kaliapani area by July 27.

Hemanta Moran, adviser to the Baghjan Gaon Milanjyoti Yuva Sangha, told The Telegraph on Monday that they had suspended all forms of protest following the formal agreement. “We will be holding discussions to finalise the amount in the next few days. There will be no protest till then,” Moran said..

The affected are seeking Rs 20 lakh “advance compensation” for each affected family. So far, properties of 1,751 families have been assessed by the administration, which has also handed Rs 20 lakh each to 11 families who lost their homes in the fire which broke out at the well on June 9.

Moran said Neog, whose cremation took place soon after the talks on Sunday night, had gone home from the relief camp on Saturday morning and is said to have consumed pesticide. He had lost his livelihood in the blowout and was depressed, according to his family members.

“It has been nearly two months. How long can we wait? There was nothing concrete from the administration except assurance, which forced us to stick to our stand of not accepting the body till our demands were met. You can’t live on assurances alone,” Moran said. He also said that the locals are disturbed by the sound generated from the affected well as well as the tremors, which started after the fire on July 9.

Nearly 9,000 people have been affected but around 8,000 of them are living in eight relief camps set up by the OIL, which operates the well which is likely to be capped this week.

An OIL official said on Sunday they have moved the administration seeking security of people working at the blowout site. “More than 200 personnel from OIL, ONGC, Alert, Schlumberger and other contractors working at site, including OIL directors, were not allowed to go out of the site after completing the day’s work yesterday (Saturday). After prolonged efforts by OIL management and district authorities, the barricade was removed but as late as at 2.30am (Sunday),” an OIL statement said.

Everything was normal on Monday, the official added.

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