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Employees' Union Seeks Resolution to Stop Privatisation of Numaligarh Refinery in Assam

A file photo shows the Numaligarh Employees' Union at a protest against the refinery's privatisation.

A file photo shows the Numaligarh Employees' Union at a protest against the refinery's privatisation.

The employees' plea came in the wake of the Centre’s proposed disinvestment of Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL).

Guwahati: The Numaligarh Refinery Employees' Union (NREU) on Wednesday issued a memorandum to the Speaker of Assam Legislative Assembly Hitendra Nath Goswami, seeking his intervention over the issue of the refinery's privatisation in the wake of the Centre’s proposed disinvestment of Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL).

BPCL owns 61.65% share of the Numaligarh Refinery Limited (NRL). The state government has a 12.35% stake in the refinery while Oil India Limited holds a share of 26%.

Issuing an emotional plea, the NREU requested an Assembly resolution to stop the privatisation of the Refinery and extend all help to strengthen it for greater economic prosperity in the state and the Northeast.

The memorandum highlighted how the refinery will automatically go to private companies after disinvestment of BPCL.

The NRL, which is a subsidiary of BPCL, was set up as per the Assam accord of 1985 — an outcome of the six-year-long Assam Agitation. The memorandum explained how NRL has paid more than Rs 30,000 crore till date to the national and state exchequer since the commencement of commercial operations in October 2000. The 3 Million Metric Ton Per Annum (MMTPA) refinery, situated in Assam’s Golaghat district, was dedicated to the nation by the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee on July 9, 1999.

“We will not allow privatisation of NRL at any cost. We met Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal recently and he assured us that NRL privatisation will not happen. We believe him,” said NREU Working President Ripun Saikia.

The Mini-ratna PSU has a net worth of Rs 5,500 crore and employs about 10,000 personnel directly or indirectly.

"At present, NRL is enjoying a benefit of 50% excise duty exemption and if it is privatised tomorrow or left without excise duty benefit, it would be at a loss. NRL has no marketing licence or retail outlets due to which product evacuation will be a major cause of concern," said NREU in its letter.

The employees' union has recommended that the 61.65% shares held with BPCL should be taken up by the oil PSU, Indian Oil Corporation Limited (IOCL), considering its strong marketing network. The NREU said if NRL becomes a subsidiary of IOCL, it will help retain the refinery's identity.

“It would be wise to merge NRL with IOCL or other Oil PSUs, such as Oil India Limited (OIL) or Oil & Natural Gas Corporation Limited (ONGC). This will help maintain the identity of a refinery that has contributed immensely towards the economic development of Assam. Under no circumstance can it be privatised,” said Saikia.

Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal had written to the Centre over reports regarding plans to hand over BPCL to private companies and the subsequent privatisation of NRL. A day later, former Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi criticised Sonowal for his feeble stand on the issue. The All Assam Students’ Union (AASU), one of the signatories to the Assam Accord, staged a protest on Monday declaring it will not allow the refinery's privatisation.