When the All Assam Students Union called for a 120-hour oil blockade a few months ago to demand the recruitment of 300 unskilled workers in Oil India Ltd (oil), the management went into a tizzy. A five-day stoppage of work would result in colossal losses to the company. But the agitators were in no mood to relent. The oil management pointed out it had decided to recruit workers but a finance ministry ban on fresh recruitment has prevented them from going ahead. Ultimately, after 24 hours of intense negotiations, the students agreed to postpone their agitation.
That is a typical tale that can be heard at the Duliajan HQ of oil. Agitations, dharnas and demands for financial help have all become part of the management’s daily chores, often distracting it from its primary task, that of exploring for and extracting oil.