Nagaland hits out at Mahawar pledge to return

Vol 20, PW 13 (23 Mar 17) People & Policy

Nagaland has told ONGC to dream on if it thinks it has the slightest hope of re-entering the tiny north-eastern state from where it was ejected in 1994.

Temjen Toy, chairman of the three-member Nagaland Petroleum & Natural Gas Board, set up to regulate exploration in the state under the supervision of a panel of state ministers, tells this report past experience with ONGC has not been pleasant. "ONGC's dealings with the public has not been good," said Toy in an email.

"When they had only been given permission to begin trial production they started commercial production." Toy was reacting to remarks made by ONGC director onshore VP Mahawar on March 10 to reporters in Guwahati saying ONGC wants to return to Nagaland. ONGC discovered the Changpang oilfield in 1973 and drilled 59 wells.

Thirty-one oil wells and two gas wells began producing in 1981. But the state, with a population of 1.9m, has faced ethnic strife since the 1950s, one by-product of which was that ONGC was accused by local tribes of looting local resources, leading to its expulsion in May 1994.

ONGC's last attempt to re-enter the state in 2007 failed after local opposition. When contacted, Mahawar oozes optimism, saying ONGC is eager to be a Nagaland's partner.

But he admits nothing will happen unless Nagaland and Delhi sign a MoU allowing ONGC's return.