Thursday, August 18, 2022

Missing the bus

Nagaland’s best and immediate hope comes from nature’s bounty in the form of extraction of crude oil and gas reserves which are estimated at around 600 million tonnes and valued at Rs. 25,20,000 crore. If oil and gas extraction is undertaken and according to the Oil Field Act, OIL and ONGC are required to pay 20 per cent royalty on price of crude oil it extracts from onland oil blocks to the respective State governments. Based on this premise, Nagaland will be getting huge oil royalty in terms of a few thousand crore rupees annually. The ONGC had extracted at least ten times more than the quantity it ought to have done as trial basis which was around 1.5 million metric tonnes. Nagaland was paid a paltry Rs.33 crore as royalty in 1993. Had the government of Nagaland been mindful about the manner in which oil from Nagaland, especially Wokha district was being extracted, the revenue would have been at least ten times more. Successive governments in Nagaland under the control of politicians who were disinclined to earn the displeasure of Naga nationalist groups and the students, did not press for oil operations. Some however maintained that the consent of landowners was needed as they have the right as per Article 371(A)(a) clause(iv) ownership and transfer of land and its resources. Decades after oil operations were halted by the state government, the mood has been reversed and instead there is a clamour for exploration and extraction in view of the huge revenue potential. The NPF government in 2012, with understanding from all those who had earlier strongly objected to sell out’ of Naga resources, was able to take up the issue in the state assembly and enact the Nagaland Petroleum and Natural Gas(NPNG) Regulation 2012.The Rule was pushed through without realising that there are hurdles to the constitutional validity of Nagaland’s Article 371(A) as to whether it enabled the state to frame its own rules and regulations for calling of bid for oil operations. The UPA-II government at the Centre made it clear that only parliament alone has authority to frame laws for oil operations as per the Entry 53 of List -1 of the Seventh Schedule and also the Mines and Minerals(Regulation and Development)Act 1957 which extensively invests mines and minerals as the occupied field of the union of India. The crisis that society in Nagaland suffers from is that its leaders self-inflict paralysis due to over indulgence in political rhetoric. Thus when the movement should have progressed, it has only been moving in the same spot. Even as early as 1994, this newspaper had reported, more by way understanding that modern technology in drilling will not prevent oil being extracted from Nagaland’s oil basins in the disputed border with Assam by ONGC. This notion was shot down by those in authority who believed then, that technology hasn’t developed for horizontal drilling. Horizontal drilling techniques allow for extraction of crude oil from an oil basin located far away. It is suspected that this was being used by ONGC drilling machines at Assam side to extract oil from Changpang oil basin. On the other hand, fossil oil is not going to last forever. Today other non-fossil fuel alternatives such as CNG, solar, hydroelectric and bio-fuels are the options. Time is indeed running out for Nagaland and the people and their leaders need to shake themselves to reality.

Most Read