ONGC wins 'hearts and minds' in volatile Assam

Vol 22, PW 18 (27 Jun 19) People & Policy

Small gestures go a long way, especially in volatile Assam where ONGC needs as many friends as it can get.

Local communities have welcomed a Girls Menstrual Hygiene (GMH) programme, dubbed Project 'Sakhi', rolled out by ONGC's Nazira-based ASSAM ASSET, headed by SD Maske. Installation of sanitary pad vending machines at government-run girl schools is central to the GMH awareness programme.

Costing just Rs2 ($0.03) each, sanitary pads are offered free. ONGC's initiative has produced startling results: protests, violent or otherwise, against drilling or rig movements are sharply down.

"More than 60 groups typically create disruption," adds a source. "But they no longer have public support, people see what ONGC is doing."

Less strikes also mean significant cost savings. "The benefits far outweigh the cost," ONGC tells us.

"Less than Rs10 lakh ($14,300) is the 'project' cost; each 'project' includes 20 schools or colleges. Almost 15,000 girls benefit; indirectly their families also benefit."

Launched in August 2018, Project 'Sakhi' covers 18 schools in Sivsagar district with another 23 planned in Dibrugarh district. "Our production teams at the well site were told to find schools that need help," we hear.

Accompanied by your correspondent, ONGC officer Amandeep Singh is welcomed with smiling faces at a school in Ligripukhuri near Nazira. "Our pupils wash and refill the vending machines and incinerate the soiled pads," says principal Parthsarthy Sarkar.

"Earlier teenage boys were curious so we put up a partition. But now everyone is comfortable."