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Poor response to State panel on Baghjan appraisal
Ron Duarah
 DIBRUGARH, June 30 - A public hearing of grievances by a one-man committee of Forest official MK Yadav which took place at the Tinsukia Circuit House from Friday concluded on Monday.

Apart from the normal retinue of student and youth organisations, members of the public hardly submitted anything. On Monday, a group from Dadhia Laika came to give a representation, but it turned out that their grievances were flood-related and had nothing to do with the OIL gaswell disaster at Baghjan.

Yadav, a Forest officer in the rank of additional PCCF, was appointed by the Assam Government to receive representations from the public in order to assess the quantum of property loss suffered by ordinary citizens due to the Baghjan disaster. In the light of non-appearance by the desired people, the student and youth groups asked the officer to go to the villages for a better appraisal.

These organisation leaders included the president and secretary of All Moran Students’ Union, Arunjyoti Moran and Naba Moran, AJYCP Tinsukia district committee president Surajit Moran, secretary of the All Assam Muttuck Yuva Chatra Sanmilan, Dharani Gohain, ATTSA leader Paresh Gowala, Tinsukia district unit president of the All Gorkha Students’ Union, Ashok Lama, and secretary of the Tinsukia district unit of AASU, Samarjit Gohain. They all called upon the Forest official to see to it that all affected families get their due compensation and rehabilitation. The youth leaders also wanted stepped up protection measures for the Maguri Beel wetlands and the Dibru Saikhowa National Park, including its buffer zone.

It is unclear how effective will be the recommendations (if any) of this one-man committee, in the light of the constitution of the eight-member insight committee by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) last week. Earlier, the Union Petroleum Ministry had joined the frenzy and announced the constitution of a three-man committee to probe the Baghjan disaster and work out a rehabilitation package. This committee vanished before the three men could get to say hello to each other, as one of the members was required for Covid-19 duties in Delhi. Of the three, one was BC Bora, who earlier was CMD of both OIL and ONGC.

Now all eyes are on the NGT-appointed committee, that will be headed by retired High Court Judge, BP Katakey. Other prominent members of this committee are Ajit Kumar Hazarika, who was earlier CMD of ONGC, and Dr Sarbeswar Kalita, Professor of Environment Sciences at the Gauhati University. While the Assam Government and Central Government committees were indeed hastily announced entities, and nothing much can be expected from them, villagers of Baghjan and the other side of the Maguri Beel are calculating heavily on the NGT-appointed committee, as a Judge is on the Board. It is not known when this committee will commence its hearings and other activities. The DC of Tinsukia, Bhaskar Pegu was unavailable for comment. He is also a member of this committee.

On Sunday, OIL’s Director (Operations), Pankaj Kr Goswami and Resident Chief Executive, Dilip Kumar Das visited Baghjan to assess status of actions taken for protecting environmental damage due to the blowout.

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