Territorial Army may step in to break oil strike: Minister (Lead)

January 9th, 2009 - 2:47 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Jan 9 (IANS) In an attempt to end the ongoing strike by officers of public sector oil firms, Petroleum Minister Murli Deora has begun conducting talks with the Territorial Army to break the impasse. Meanwhile, Home Minister P. Chidambaram said he was willing to talk to the strike leaders Friday, but appealed to them to end the strike immediately “as they are placing an intolerable burden on the people”.

“Strike is not the way. Strong action is being taken, I understand,” he added.

“With the situation worsening with every passing hour, the Territorial Army is likely to step in to end petroleum strike,” Deora said.

Local magistrates will also be asked to force the strikers to return to work.

“Everybody was united in the cabinet that we should go and tell the people about the losses due to the strike and that they should withdraw the agitation. The cabinet directed us to ensure the strike is withdrawn and that people do not suffer,” Deora said.

“Attendance in BPCL (Bharat Petroleum Corp Ltd) has increased 40 percent but the only cause of worry is the Hazira refinery, which is not working,” Petroleum Secretary R.S. Pandey said.

“They (strikers) are being very unreasonable, they can’t hold the country to ransom,” he added.

The gas situation in western region has been affected considerably, Pandey said, adding that several power plants have had to shut down as there was no fuel supply.

CNG supply in Mumbai will also be restored fully, he asserted.

The Oil Sector Officers Association, the umbrella body that called the strike, are demanding higher wages in 14 public sector undertakings.

Talks with the government failed late Thursday night with both sides sticking to their stand.

Meanwhile, in a regulatory statement to the Bombay Stock Exchange, Aditya Birla Nuvo Ltd said it has been forced to shut down its fertiliser plant at Jagdishpur in Uttar Pradesh due to the non-availability of gas because of the strike.

Chidambaram however pointed out that of the public sector oil firms, HPCL employees were not on strike and BPCL employees were likely to get back to work later Friday. But employees of IOC, ONGC and GAIL were still on strike, he admitted.

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