ONGC plans new security force for northeast

Vol 6, PW 18 (06 Nov 02) Exploration & Production

TERRORISM IN INDIAS northeast has always been a deterrent for oil companies.

Now increasing attacks on oil installations and work teams in Assam have convinced ONGC and Oil India to raise their own security force instead of depending on local forces. ONGC tells PETROWATCH it will number 250 guards, rising to 500.

Its job will be to protect drilling platforms and exploration sites as well seismic survey teams. Initially planned for Assam, the force could be deployed in other parts of the northeast.

"We will see how it works in Assam and then decide." Local policemen will be recruited but later ONGC hopes to recruit surrendered insurgents from the United Liberation Front for Asom. Present security for oil and gas facilities in the northeast is with Delhi's inefficient Central Industrial Security Force.

Unclear is if the new force will have anti-insurgency training or remain just security guards. Elsewhere, the Assam office of India's Intelligence Bureau has sent a dossier to Delhi accusing ONGC, Oil India and Bharat Petroleum's Numaligarh Refinery of making 'protection payments' worth Rs60 lakh to ULFA over the past eight months.

Oil companies deny the charge, but the IB tells PETROWATCH that contractors were paid over and above the contract amounts and that this money reached ULFA. "These contractors are mere conduits to negotiate pay-offs and arrange money transfers." ONGC and Oil India are relaxed about the allegation.

"Some of our contractors receive extortion notices and they pay up because they have to do business in Assam."

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