BPCL disinvestment plan fuels security concerns around Numaligarh Refinery

Rahul Wadke Mumbai | Updated on October 19, 2019

Left parties stage a protest against Centre’s move to sell Numaligarh Refinery, and the rise in prices of essential commodities in Guwahati   -  -

In the last 10 days, talks of BPCL stake sale has led to massive agitations across Assam

Security agencies are uncomfortable with the Centre’s plan to sell BPCL to private entities as the company controls the Assam-based Numaligarh refinery, which is located in a sensitive and restive area.

A senior security official said that after the stake sale, the private investors could get their own manpower on the company’s board and the ground in Assam, which is what is giving jitters to the agencies. The old sparks of violence should not again spread in the State. NRL controls a large share of petroleum products in the North-East and any kind of strike will impact the availability of these products in the region. The strike could also have a cascading effect on local politics, the official said.

The refinery located in upper Assam was commissioned in April 1999. It is a part of the Assam Accord, which was signed between the Centre and the leaders of the Assam Movement in August 1985, after years of intense violence. The Accord was meant to bring reconciliation and peace in the region. The refinery is controlled through BPCL’s subsidiary Numaligarh Refinery Ltd (NRL).

In the last 10 days, talks of BPCL stake sale has led to massive agitations across Assam. The workers’ union in NRL has been regularly holding protests outside the refinery.

On the other hand, a former senior executive with BPCL said that even if the Centre manages to ring-fence NRL and preserves it as PSU, it will impact the valuation of BPCL in the market.

The General Secretary of Numaligarh Refinery Employees Union, Binod Gogoi said that the refinery and its associate offices have 954 permanent and 2,000 temporary employees. The workers and the executives have been protesting and will continue to protest until the privatisation plan is scrapped. The Union in a memorandum addressed to the Prime Minister on the proposed disinvestment of NRL and BPCL, said that NRL was set up as per the outcome of the historic Assam Accord, which was signed after six long years of Assam agitation. The agitation costed 855 lives, “Therefore, no one can deny the fact that Numaligarh Refinery symbolises the sentiments and emotions of every individual of Assam.” The memorandum has been submitted to the Deputy Commissioner, Golaghat. One of the reasons that NRL was set up in such a remote place far away from national capital was to develop the poor economic infrastructure and backward social condition of the region. Since first commercial production NRL has paid more than ₹30,000 crore to the national and State exchequer, the memorandum added.

Published on October 18, 2019

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