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Assam: Residents of 2 Villages File Plea for Compensation in SC after Baghjan Oilwell Blowout

In the past one year, Baghjan residents have held several meetings, and have approached the authorities repeatedly, but to no avail.
Assam: Residents of 2 Villages File Plea for Compensation in SC after Baghjan Oilwell Blowout

Image Courtesy: PTI

New Delhi; Residents of Baghjan and Natun Rongagora in Tinsukia district of Assam have filed two applications to the Supreme Court on October 21 demanding compensation. The residents of both villages, situated close to Dibru Saikhowa National Park,claimed in the applications that the victims of the disaster had not been adequately compensated by the authorities. 

The residents have identified themselves as stakeholders in the litigation in the apex court, a media report suggested. 

The Baghjan blowout took place on May 27, followed by a devastating fire emerging from an oil and gas rig operated by Oil India Limited(OIL) on June 9. The disaster displaced close to 9,000 people who were holed up inside relief camps for at least two months.

As per an EastMojo report, the petitions filed by residents of both villages stated that they had made several attempts to reach out to the authorities but these went unheard. They also wrote in the petitions that both villages were inside the 'Red Zone', as demarcated by the Tinsukia authorities. 

One of the petitions stated that the blowout caused the emission of extreme heat as a result of leakage of hydrocarbons, which led to destruction of cultivated land and flora and fauna. The leakage also damaged livelihood of the fishing community, the said. 

In June 2020, after the devastating blowout Wildlife and Environmental Conservation Organization (WECO), a Tinsukia-based NGO, along with environmental activists from Assam, had filed appeals to the National Green Tribunal( NGT) seeking action against OIL for destroying the ecologically sensitive habitat and homesteads of the people of Baghjan and surrounding areas. 

In an order on June 24, 2020, the Tribunal constituted a committee of experts which submitted its report in February. The NGT signed off on the expert panel’s recommendations and disposed of the case.

The preliminary report prepared by the expert committee indicated that the victims of the blowout and the fire would be compensated in three categories depending on the scale of the losses. 

As per the EastMojo report, the residents have alleged that only an interim amount was mentioned in the preliminary report for compensation, while a final report assessing the damages was yet to come out and that would determine the compensation amount. 

Niranta Gohain, an environmental activist along with Natun Rongagora residents, claimed that apart from spending the  Rs 25,000 to Rs 50,000 for their makeshift stay arrangements, the authorities never considered the villagers for the compensation as fixed by the NGT appointed committee, according to the EastMojo report.

In the last one year, Baghjan residents have held several meetings, and have approached the authorities repeatedly. They have also written letters to the past as well as the present Chief Minister of Assam.

The Supreme Court in September had reconstituted a five member committee to assess the impact of the blowout in September, which had reappointed justice B.P. Katakey, despite OIL's repeated attempts to not have him on the bench.

The article suggests that justice B.P. Katakey is expected to submit reports that are likely to pave the way for the restoration and remediation of the pollution that was caused by OIL during and after the blowout.

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