NGT spikes Oil India objections on compensation

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Baghjan inferno continues for 74 days, likely to be doused soon

NEW DELHI, Aug 8 (PTI): The National Green Tribunal has rejected the objections raised by Oil India Ltd to a preliminary report filed by a committee on the fire incident at Baghjan well number 5 in Assam.

Oil India had raised doubts over the findings of the committee headed by former high court judge B P Katakey saying its report was based on desk research and secondary data which needs to be verified.

A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice A K Goel agreed with the finding of the committee which has made three categories of persons entitled to interim compensation.

The committee has made three categories — houses completely gutted by fire, whose houses have been severely damaged and those have been moderately/partially damaged or whose standing crops and horticulture have been partially damaged. The scale of interim compensation has been fixed as Rs 25 lakh, Rs 10 lakh and Rs 2.5 lakh, respectively.

According to OIL, a compensation of Rs 20 lakh has already been paid to persons covered under the first category while other two categories have not been identified.

Additional compensation for the first category is also not justified, OIL said.

The tribunal rejected OIL’s submission and said, “We are unable to accept the same at this stage for prima facie view and interim compensation.”

“The recommendations of the committee on the subject of compensation for three categories of victims are accepted with the clarification that the compensation already paid will be taken into account and excluded from the interim compensation recommended by the committee,” the bench said.

Compensation to victims of categories two and three will be subject to identification by the district administration which may be completed preferably within one month, the NGT said.

It said the disbursement may be made through the district administration by deposit to the bank accounts of the affected families which may also be overseen by the state legal services authority.

The green panel accepted the recommendation for interim compensation to the families who have moved out of the relief camps after the blowout of May 27, 2020 and to the families who have shifted to the relief camps after the explosion on June 9.

It directed the committee to submit a final report before November 3.

The NGT on June 24 had constituted a committee headed by former high court judge Katakey to look into the matter and submit a report.

The committee had reported major lapses, including lack of planning, execution and supervision of critical operations.

The committee in its preliminary report opined that the blowout and subsequent explosion has led to extensive damage to both the publicly-owned resources, including the Maguri-Motapung wetland and Dibru-Saikhowa National Park.

The well number 5 at Baghjan in Tinsukia district had been spewing gas uncontrollably and it caught fire on June 9, killing two of OIL’s fire fighters at the site.

The order came on a plea filed by activist Bonani Kakkar and others alleging failure of the authorities in preventing the blowout of Baghjan oil well.

Our Dibrugarh correspondent adds: Well head and well plinth have been made ready for well control operation at Baghjan oil well in Tinsukia. The capping Blow Out Preventer (BOP) stack with kill lines have been tested successfully.

The Baghjan oil blowout incident crossed 74th day on Saturday but still fire has been continuously coming out from the affected site.

OIL, ONGCL, six experts from Singpore-based fire Alert Disaster Control have been working hard to douse the fire.

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