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Hundreds of Workers Protest, Picket Near Assam Refineries

Workers enraged over hasty privatisation in petroleum sector, axe on jobs.
All India General Strike, Assam

Strike at BPCL.

Observing the All India General Strike various organisations all over Assam are participating in large numbers. Factories, refineries, banks, transport sector—all have been shut down and workers, employees are picketing from morning as early as 5 a.m

News from Digboi Refinery at Tinsukia district of Upper Assam said that since 6 a.m in the morning workers are picketing in front of the main gate of the refinery. Till 8.30 a.m hundreds of workers gathered for picketing.

Picketing in front of Digboi Refinery, morning 6 AM.

Picketing in front of Digboi Refinery, morning 6 AM.

Newsclick spoke to Nagen Chutia belonging to CITU(Centre of Indian Trade Unions), a prominent trade union leader in the petroleum sector. According to him, administrative, maintenance and other works are completely shut in Asia’s oldest refinery. However, the operation process in the refinery is not hampered fully as the management forcefully put some workers in work on Wednesday night, before the strike even started.

Apart from Assam, other parts of the NE region’s petroleum sector also observed the strike successfully, Chutia said. LPG bottling plants in six different places across NE and terminal plants in four places are closed today.

Chutia, who is also the National General Secretary of the Petroleum and Gas Workers Federation of India, criticised the ‘anti-worker’ policies of the Narendra Modi government. He he said the petroleum sector was being privatised at a faster pace. He also commented how ONGC was forced to buy shares of HPCL in 2018 for which ONGC had to take Rs 25,000 crore as loans. Similarly, in 2019 ONGC was forced to buy the loss-making SPCL (State Petroleum Corporation Limited, Gujarat). Now, the government is bringing drastic anti-worker measures like pre-mature retirement, he added.

In Guwahati, Refinery at Noonmati has also seen picketing and a successful closure by the striking workers. The strike has been successful and hundreds of workers have registered their protests against the Modi government.

Picketing in front of Guwahati Refinery, Noonmati. 7 AM.

Picketing in front of Guwahati Refinery, Noonmati. 7 AM.

Speaking to Newsclick, Biren Kalita, president of AICCTU (All India Central Council of Trade Unions), Assam and also the president of United Workmen Union, Guwahati Refinery said the strike was a good success at the Guwahati refinery. He said the strike is aimed at the ‘draconian anti-worker’ laws brought in by the Modi government and against the unprecedented privatisation initiated by it.

Kalita said that OIL (Oil India Limited) had a network of thousands of kilometers of pipelines across the country. And now the government is planning to privatise this huge network of pipeline manufacture, which will be a great loss to the public sector.

The greater Noonmati area of Guwahati is an industrial place where several other industries like India Carbon, Assam Carbon, Assam Asbestos etc. operate. According to Kalita, all these industries have been closed today and workers have come out to picketing in front of the gates. He said that the entire area will have more than 3000 workers working at different industrial outfits have joined the strike today.

Strike at India Carbon by ‘India Carbon Employees and Labour Union’.

Strike at India Carbon by ‘India Carbon Employees and Labour Union’.

Apart from the refineries in the petroleum sector, the other industry workers who took part in strike are like Brahmaputra Cracker and Polymer Limited (BPCL), ONGC Silchar and others participated in the strike.

Apart from Noonmati, the other major industrial place is Amingaon, at the bank of Brahmaputra. In this area also workers from many industries like Emami etc. have joined in the strike in large numbers. The export promotion industrial park in this area witnessed huge gathering at picketing.

Strike at Export Promotion Industrial Park, Amingaon, near Guwahati.

Strike at Export Promotion Industrial Park, Amingaon, near Guwahati.

Newsclick also spoke Tapan Sarma, the General Secretary of CITU, Assam. Sarma is visiting many protesting sites in and around Guwahati. According to him the transport sector has totally shut today. But, in Guwahati, the transport sector is relaxed due to the cremation of former CM Tarun Gogoi. There will also be a protest gathering in front of the DC (Deputy Commissioner) Office, Guwahati, at 12 o clock. Mr Sarma also said that banking, petroleum, power sectors are totally shut today in Assam.

He criticised Modi government at Centre and Sarbanand Sonowal government in Assam. The PM talks about his ‘Mann ki Baat’ but does he have any courage to listen to the ‘Mann ki Baat’ of the workers and farmers? Today’s strike is the real ‘Mann ki Baat’ of the struggling people of this country, he said.

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