Tapping our Resources –Part 2

Kedi Haralu

I still remember vividly my discussion with the previous HOHO President, Late Horangse Sangtam, when we had representatives of all tribal HOHO’s and the Naga council, to discuss our nations future with the Ato Kilonser of GPRN (IM), at Bangkok, Thailand, a few years back. We were at the Hotel balcony looking down at never ending line of evening traffic, which Bangkok is notorious for, and out of the blue he commented “Imagine how much petroleum fuel is utilized daily. I wonder what will become of the city if petroleum is exhausted or becomes too expensive to afford?” This started off our discussion on our rich mineral resources which Nagas failed to capitalize upon, especially our crude oil deposits, due to our ignorance and technical know-how, and the attitude of ONGC being unacceptable. If we successfully got help from the western world and attained the technical know how, we would never be depended on other countries, especially India, and it was the first step to our Independence. But India knows that too, so they will never lift the RAP, nor will they let other countries help us drill our resources. 

As I had literally spelt it out in my previous article, “Tapping our Resources,” a barrel of crude oil is around $80, when converted comes to a minimum of Rs 4,600/- to Rs 4900/-, according to the fluctuating status of the dollar market.

It is not only Champang that crude oil is found, but places like Intangki and Phek are literarily floating on oil, but if not tapped, the oil bed will shift, thus draining our resources. ONGC is at the least bothered about coming to terms with the Nagas, for although they are not drilling at Champang, the oil bed also stretches to the Assam side, so it is being drilled at a large scale from Assam.

Can Nagas get anymore foolish? It’s like taking candy from a kid, by distracting the kid with something else. The demise of Late Horangse was a major loss, not only to our Political Solution, but to our economy, for he knew and unders6tood the oil scenario like the back of his hand.

Now, to my understanding, a few Companies have made a deal with the Nagaland Government, one being the Canadian Drilling Company, Canoro Ltd and the other, Assam Oil. The main people in these companies are people from Assam, thus their affiliation will always be Assam and never Nagaland. Yes, they may be willing to pay the various factions, the land owners and even the Government so that they will not make a ruckus about it and agree to every term the Companies policy draws out, but that amount of money is not even a paisa compared to what they will be earning from our resources. It was because of Late Horangse and few others in the Lotha HOHO who understood this and that was the reason for the Companies staying away, but now who will stop them and 99.9 percent of Nagas do not know the value of our resources, and are happy with what Delhi is giving us. We have been a welfare state for many decades since the time we got our Statehood, and we will continue to be a welfare state (any ruling Government is usually at Delhi with a begging bowl) until and unless we change our mindset and also educate the upcoming generation on our rich untapped deposits, and that they may one day bring us a free independent economy, which is nearly 70% to complete Sovereignty/Independence. How can we dictate terms with Delhi, when we are always at Delhi with a begging bowl? Obviously they will treat us as beggars, and we do not have any right to complain, for they are giving us free and easy money.

What needs to be done at this stage is to invest more in the Departments like Geology and Mining and also open a new Department directly under the Union Petroleum Ministry. We also need to ensure that both our representative at Delhi in the Indian Parliament be appointed by the Indian Government as members of the Parliamentary Standing Committee in Ministry of Petroleum, which will give us more say in this Ministry and also be able to dictate terms if the Union Government decides to continue with the drilling of our Oil beds. What I cannot understand is, why the Government of Nagaland is bypassing the Geology and Mining Department and dealing straight with private Companies. Yes, I know that the heads of the department (usually “shifting” Bureaucrats, who are changed according to what Government is ruling), and to add salt to the wound giving ignorant, uneducated politicians as the Minister In-charge of a Department which is filled with the cleverest, most educated officers of the State. Right now the Chief Minister is taking the Charge, but he has to look after atleast 21 departments, so we cannot tax him any further. “But hats off to the Chief Minister, for keeping the Ministry intact, although there has been numerous attempts by certain elected legislators to destabilize the Government. It’s as good as a full term for elections are just a year away, and this is the first time in our political history that a regional party has ruled for four years at a stretch, under his leadership”. I sure pray that he will return for one more term. 

In conclusion, something has to be done so that the oilfields be drilled by either the ONGC or the Assam Government. There is no point hiding our resources and not doing anything about it (Miss Universe, after a few decades becomes toothless and an old wrinkly hag)  The only solution, including Champang is that, let local entrepreneurs and locals with the technical know-how be given the utmost importance and also revive and revitalize the Geology and Mining Department, ” and in the process spend more on them, for in the long run, what they have had started would be bringing in a lot of Foreign investments, thus making Nagaland at par with Punjab, UP, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh. Some of these states are far richer then the Union Ministry, hence they deal with foreign companies directly and not go through the Delhi Channel. 

Lastly, Drilling Companies like Canoro Ltd and Assam Oil are no better then the ONGC, for they never live up to their word. If this is the first impression, then the future looks rather bleak. Nagas are a simple race and we only stick to our words, but these private companies do not have an iota of accountability So, I sincerely believe that the NSF and the Naga HOHO focus more in the issues which will boost our economy, and not the - “never” ending political problem. The NSF and the Naga HOHO should finish what they started, for the more we prolong it the more powerful these companies become. As I had said in my previous article “Tapping our Resources” I think every leader be it any political party or organization, should come together and pressure the Union Government, plus if organizations like the NSF and the Naga HOHO sets the ball rolling, I am sure each an every educated Naga will back them. The simple question is why we should remain a welfare state, when our resource surpasses all the states in India and I can say with boldness and confidence that we are richer then some countries in Asia and also Europe. “Its now or never.”