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Meet on oil exploration held

Cabinet sub committee members along with Rio, Tuesday. (NP)
Correspondent KOHIMA, JUN 28 (NPN):
Published on 29 Jun. 2011 12:21 AM IST
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Chief minister Neiphiu Rio on Tuesday said that it was an opportune time for Nagas to bargain and fight for their rights guaranteed to them under Article 371 (A) of the Indian Constitution, with particular reference to “land and its resources”. He was speaking as chief guest at the consultative meeting of Cabinet Sub-Committee on Petroleum and Natural Gas with tribal hohos and civil bodies to develop a regulatory framework for regulating and developing petroleum and natural gas in the state, held here.
Expressing happiness at the Government of India for having conceded the rights of State Assembly to frame it own laws and regulations for mineral resources of the state as per Article 371 (A), Rio said the Article conferred authority on the State Legislative Assembly to make the final decision on these issues making the Nagaland Legislative Assembly the custodian of the Naga people’s rights and interest.
The state assembly on June 26 passed a resolution, that in respect of “ownership and transfer of land and its resources, including mineral oil”, no act of parliament would apply within the state of Nagaland and that Nagaland would make appropriate rules in this regard to be enforced within the state.
Touching on the 16 Point Agreement of 1960 that led to the formation of Nagaland State, with special safeguards inserted under Article 371 (A) of the constitution, Rio said that a flipside of the agreement was that it was signed by then ‘overground’ Naga leaders which excluded Naga underground leaders adding, this could not lead to solution of the Naga political issue.
He went on to say that many of the provisions in the agreement were “unilaterally” repealed or were yet to be implemented by the government of India. He said, one such delayed implementation among the provisions of the agreement was the right of the State Assembly to frame it own laws and regulations for mineral resources of the state.
On the Centre conceding to the state’s reassertion on Art.371 (A), he said it came about after the state confronted the Centre with legal interpretations and assembly resolution.
He said “we should be prepared to continue to fight for our rights on many other issues; otherwise, our rights will be trampled” he added.
Rio said Nagaland was blessed with abundant deposits of oil and natural gas, which if exploited, would uplift economic prosperity to the people. He pointed that oil reserve in Changpang area was alone estimated at 20 million metric tones. He regretted that 23 years of trial production at Changpang by ONGC had emitted any positive signal of their intention for oil operations in Nagaland.
He also asked stakeholders in the state - state government, land owners and oil companies- for equitable sharing of benefits among them. He assured that royalty that comes to the state government would be judiciously used for the benefit of the people of Nagaland.
In view of continuous complexity of oil exploration and extraction in Nagaland, a Cabinet Sub-committee on Petroleum and Natural Gas was constituted under the chairmanship of minister T.R. Zeliang in October 2009 to protect and develop the vital resources.
Rio further stated that Nagaland was blessed with huge deposits of petroleum and natural gas which, if properly exploited and utilized, can bring about economic prosperity to the people. He mentioned that the Changpang oil field alone is estimated to have 20 million metric tones of crude oil. He however expressed remorse that the 23 years of trial production by ONGC did not send a positive signal about their intention of exploration of oil in Nagaland.
T.R. Zeliang, minister for Planning, Parliamentary Affairs, V&AH and chairman of Cabinet Sub-Committee on Petroleum and Natural Gas, said that it was time for Nagas to assert their rights and tap their resources to make Nagaland a self-reliant state. In true spirit of Article 371 (A), Zeliang said that the cabinet sub committee would proceed further after consultation with tribal hohos and land owners and play as role as the regulator. He also asserted that land owners would not be deprived of their land, but that companies to explore and produce petroleum and natural gas would only have access to land for which a fee will be paid to the land owners. He further assured that selection of companies would be done as per criteria and modalities which would be formulated by the cabinet sub committee in consonance with customary laws and practices.
T.R. Zeliang further called for cooperation of all land owners, village councils and tribal hohos to work alongside with the state government so that resources are duly explored and developed for mutual benefit of all stakeholders. He also assured all Nagas that the state government was fully conscious of the due rights of the Nagas in their land and resources.
The programme was chaired by APC and member secretary of Cabinet sub committee, H.K. Khulu. Legislators, bureaucrats, tribal hohos, students unions and other civil bodies attended the consultative meeting.
Resolution taken by the house
Fully endorsed the approach of the Cabinet Sub-Committee in relation to land and its resources in Nagaland and particularly in relation to regulation and development of petroleum and natural gas, as laid down in the Consultation paper and
Endorse the Cabinet Sub-Committee to frame necessary Rules/modalities for exploration and extraction of petroleum and natural gas in the State of Nagaland at the earliest. The Cabinet Sub Committee will take further consultation with the land owners/ tribal hohos/civil societies before final submission of its report.
Any tribal hoho/ apex organisation wishing to make suggestions while framing the rules/ modalities, may submit in writing to the Cabinet Sub Committee on or before July 15, 2011.

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