Anger at Reliance in Assam as mob attacks office

Vol 7, PW 5 (21 May 03) People & Policy

DISTRUST OF Reliance Industries in Assam has united the ruling Congress party and its arch rival the main opposition Asom Gana Parishad.

On 30th April angry Congress party supporters shouted slogans against Reliance and pelted stones at its office in the state capital Guwahati. They were protesting against the poor quality of Reliance's mobile phone services butin reality the protest was a culmination ofresentment against Reliance's presence in the state, notably in the gas sector.

Even the normally anti-Congress AGP is impatient to join the protest. "We will also soon start an agitation against Reliance Telecom," AGP spokesman Moidul Islam Bora tells PETROWATCH.

"They have not lived upto their promises and their service is poor." For ordinary Assamese poor telephone service from Reliance is the latest instance of its cavalier attitude towards the state. For the past ten years the company has promised to build a 200,000 t/y gas cracker but the project is stillborn "This was to be one of our dream projects," laments chief minister Tarun Gogoi.

"But it has become a non-starter." For Congress MP Bijoy Handique the aborted gas cracker is evidence of Reliance's betrayal. "They are not serious about the project at all," he tells PETROWATCH.

"Talks have been going on between them and the chief minister but nothing happens." Handique doubts Reliance's commitment to the project and believes Oil India and GAIL should take over. Hopes for a gas cracker in Assam stem from a 1985 peace accord between Delhi and the formerly militant AGP.

In 1992 Reliance agreed to implement the project but has since complained of inadequate gas supplies and unattractive prices from Oil India and ONGC.

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