Mighty-mouthed statements and rhetoric do not make a nation great. It is only towering deeds that make a nation a frontline member at the international forum. Since decades India has been making the bombastic announcement that the 21st century would belong to India on account of the mighty strides that this country would be making in the sphere of science and technology in the decades to come.
Sky-rocketing announcements and high voltage rhetoric apart, it now appears that even after seven decades of independence, as a nation we have not acquired the technology in the sphere of gas/oil exploration or dealing with crisis situation.
The recent example on this count is the uncontrolable flare-up and massive fire that broke out and continues blaze menacingly at Baghjan oilfield rig No 5 in Tinsukia district of upper Assam. Technically speaking, the workover operation at the rig, known as a high pressure gas well, was carried out by a foreign private company named John Energy, engaged by Oil India Limited (OIL).
The result was there for all to see and tremble. It was on May 27 that John Energy let loose its destructive energy with a massive blowout at rig No 5 at Baghjan while people in thousands fled from nearby areas to safer destinations.
The fact that a foreign company was engaged in the operation obviously arises the question if OIL on its own is incompetent to undertake such activities.
On the other hand, if OIL claims to have the necessary expertise to handle oil/gas exploration, why was a foreign company engaged? Or could it be that the foreign company successfully cast its special ‘mantra’ or ‘magic’ on OIL high-ups or some super heavyweights at the Centre as well as some local players like the state forest department?
What is still worse, it appears that the OIL management in its ‘wisdom’ might have thought that its foreign friend loaded with destructive energy did not cause any big mischief by triggering the blowout at Baghjan. And hence, to cap the blowout OIL roped in another foreign firm – Singapore-based M/s Alert Disaster Control. The new bunch of so-called foreign experts seemingly proved only to be supreme Lords of disaster.
Come June 9, the OIL bigwigs and the so-called experts from Alert Disaster Control reportedly got down to action. Just around 1 pm, a massive inferno that rose to over 300 feet broke out at the gas well site accompanied by loud nerve-wrecking hissing sound. This caused the people of several nearby villages to flee for life, leaving behind all their belongings. Two firemen of OIL also died at the spot.
While OIL has maintained a stony silence on the disaster, it was indeed a clear case of utter incompetence and irresponsibility on its part and its foreign friends. As per reports appearing in a section of the local media, an operation technically termed ‘Ignite Well’ that involves a process to “ignite the well and then trigger an explosion to douse the flame,” might possibly have been executed.
Irrespective of the report being authentic or not, the OIL Czars and their foreign friends may be told that surgery is the domain of only qualified surgeons and not of ward boys, helpers or assistants who might have witnessed a thousand surgeries performed.
The inferno that broke out engulfed the entire area. The surrounding forests were up in flames, the crop lands turned into ashes, the condensate oil (condensates) that spread far and wide turned into tiny islands of fire on water. The environmentalists are up in arms alleging possibility of severe damage to the wetland and ecological hotspot Maguri Motapung Beel and also to the nearby Dibru Saikhowa National Park.
The people who have fled from the Baghjan area are either arranging their own shelter in safer areas or are accommodated in shelter camps by the government. Again, while protest against OIL is mounting with accelerating momentum, the oil giant has not yet accepted the responsibility for the disaster. On its part the state government is engaged in making meaningless statements like having apprised the Centre or ordering a high-level probe by a senior bureaucrat into the misdemeanor.
Unfortunately for the Baghjan residents, there are more woes for them, courtesy OIL and their foreign friends. On Thursday the locals were further terrorized by earthquake-like tremors at virtually regular intervals of 15 to 20 minutes. The loud buzzing sound of the tin roofs only added to the nightmare of the villagers.
Hence, the civil administration evacuated the residents of several other villages late in the night. Some residents have expressed the fear if the area would begin to sink. Again, complaints against alleged inadequate provisions at the shelter camps abound.
Now that the damage has been done and more of it may be in store, will the Sultans of Dispur and Delhi wake up to the situation? Will they have the guts to fix responsibilities on OIL and their foreign friends? Can Dispur compel the erring parties to pay compensation to the tune of thousands of crore of rupees for reducing forests to ashes and extending the disastrous impact to aquatic life in the watery belts? The answer, of course, is anybody’s guess.
Meanwhile, Baghjan burns, tremors jolt Baghjan. The locals are angry, hungry and helpless. Wildlife, reportedly, are fleeing in a directionless manner. But who cares?