Assam raises new paramilitary force to guard oil units

Vol 12, PW 13 (13 Nov 08) People & Policy

Assam state authorities have agreed to raise a new paramilitary force to guard oilfields against increasingly active armed separatist groups.

PETROWATCH learns that on November 3 the state cabinet approved the Assam Industrial Security Force (AISF) following requests from state-owned as well as private oil and gas companies for more security following the July 2007 kidnapping and killing of PC Ram, regional director of the state-owned Food Corporation of India, by separatist groups. Requests for more security acquired a sense of urgency following the October 30 serial bomb blasts across Assam that killed more than 80 people.

GM Srivastava, Assam’s director general of home guards tells this report that companies are worried about more kidnapping attempts on senior executives. “But we cannot spare regular policemen because we need them for counter-insurgency operations,â€‌ said Srivastava.

“So the government has decided to set up a separate armed force.â€‌ Two battalions of 1200 personnel each will be raised within four months.

“These personnel will be chosen from the 16,000 home guards, trained in â€کstatic’ security to Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) standards and will be armed with automatic weapons.â€‌ Such a force is not without precedent.

Four years ago, Assam raised a separate armed paramilitary unit named the Tea Plantation Security Force made up of 2400 personnel to provide security to the state’s sprawling tea gardens. India has a mix of state and federal paramilitary forces with the home guards under state control and others like the Central Reserve Police Force and the CISF under Delhi’s command to control rebellions by Maoists or separatists that affect as many as half of its 26 states.

Srivastava says the AISF will be available to all oil companies – but on payment. “The rates will be reasonable,â€‌ he stresses.