NEW DELHI, Aug 4 - In a major relief to the fund-starved Assam Government, the ONGC and the Oil India Limited (OIL) today paid Rs 1449.88 crore towards differential royalty on pre-discount price for the period from February 1, 2014, to March 31 this year.
The Tarun Gogoi-led Congress Government had come under sharp attack for not challenging the previous UPA Government�s decision in the court, resulting in financial loss to Assam. The Narendra Modi-led Gujarat Government had challenged the Centre�s move in the High Court and got a favourable verdict.
What may bring more cheers to the Assam Government is the case pertaining to payment of outstanding amount pending since 2008 in the Supreme Court. The Assam Government has requested Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Dharmendra Pradhan to opt for an out-of-court settlement, State Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma has disclosed.
The Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister cleared the payment of royalty by ONGC (Rs 300.64 crore) and OIL (Rs 1,149.24 crore) in a single instalment to bail out the State Government, which is fighting resources crunch and in a tight corner because of the onslaught of floods.
The cheque handing over ceremony held at the Assam Bhavan here this afternoon was attended by Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, the Union Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister, Union Minister of State for Railways Rajen Gohain, State Water resources Minister Keshab Mahanta, Chairman-cum-Managing Directors of ONGC and OIL, DK Saraf and Utpal Bora respectively, besides the State�s MPs. The two cheques were handed over by the CMDs of the two oil giants to the Chief Minister.
Addressing the function, Pradhan said that the people of Assam have been fighting for long for the crude oil royalty and have reposed their trust on the BJP Government.
Referring to the flood problem in Assam, Pradhan said that a State fighting such a disaster cannot hope to compete with the economy of other States.
He said that Congress president Sonia Gandhi was upset with the then Modi-led Gujarat Government and formulated the post-discount formula, but in the process Assam was dealt a heavy blow. Assam�s Rajya Sabha representative was the Prime Minister of the country then, he said.
The Congress played politics with oil royalty, he alleged, pointing out that the Tarun Gogoi Government could have accessed the royalty then through the judicial route, but did not.
Recalling his meeting with the then Chief Minister Gogoi, Pradhan said he had advised Gogoi to move court on the strength of the Gujarat verdict. He filed a case in the High Court, but did not follow up, Pradhan said.
The royalty paid by the two oil companies is not a burden to them because it is a commitment to Assam. Since 2008-09, the Centre has been doing injustice to Assam and �we have come to rectify it,� said Pradhan.
Later, replying to questions, the Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister said the process of auctioning the 12 oil wells was on.
Adding, Chief Minister Sonowal said that auctioning oil wells is not a new practice. �We need seven million tonnes to feed the State�s four refineries. Currently, there is a shortage of production. We need to make good of the shortfall to meet the local requirement,� said Sonowal.
�We are trying to find a permanent solution,� he said.
Earlier, addressing the function, he hailed the move of paying the pending amount in one instalment. The royalty is pending since 2008 and had the then Assam Government fought the case in the court, the crisis would not have arisen. Assam faced an unprecedented situation and no steps were taken to resolve the situation, Sonowal rued.
He further said that the State is currently under floodwaters and the money that was paid today would be utilised for the people of the State. �I firmly believe that Governments of India and Assam would train their focus on the people of the State with a firm commitment,� he said.