Thursday, 25 October 2012

Petroleum Ministry reject Army Paradropping near PAK Border

The Indian Army’s plans for a manoeuvring training range close to the Pakistan border in Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, has received a setback. A high-level committee comprising officials of the defence and petroleum ministries, set up to resolve the contentious issue, has rejected the army’s request for land in the area for it.

The petroleum ministry has opposed the army’s proposal despite assurances by the latter that its military training programmes will not affect oil and gas exploration work.

Many blocks in the said region have been allotted to M/s Focus Energy Ltd, ONGC and other oil companies for exploration purpose and the petroleum ministry feels that the army’s project cannot co-exist with this work. Not losing hope, the army raised the issue with senior officials of the defence ministry at the army Commanders Conference held in New Delhi last week.

“We have communicated our stand to the top brass of the ministry of defence to take up the issue with the ministry of petroleum and natural gas,” a senior army officer said.

Defence ministry spokesperson Sitanshu Kar refused to comment on the issue despite a detailed questionnaire sent to him by DNA. Rajasthan principal secretary (mines and petroleum) has proposed that an alternative site be considered for the army’s training range, and highlighted the need and feasibility for both the army and Focus Energy to co-exist.

Since Operation Vijay and Operation Parakram, the army has been pushing hard to acquire around 1.88 lakh hectares of land at Shahgarh Bulge, barely 10 km from the Line of Control. The project which has “in principle” approval of the defence ministry, has been hanging in the balance after reserves of oil and gas were found in the same area.

“It is recommended that formal acquisition of the land be undertaken immediately after exploration is complete and specific areas required be earmarked by the end of 2013. The ministry of petroleum, oil and natural gas be asked to indicate a firm date for the same to enable pre-acquisition formalities to be undertaken in a timely manner and to ensure that this period is not unduly extended,” the committee observed. The committee has not been able to arrive at a unanimous view on co-existence of the army range and oil exploration company.

The army is already facing acute shortage of field ranges and has taken up the matter with several civil authorities. About 10 years ago, the army had 104 ranges across the country but the number has come down to 66 including 12 acquired and 54 notified ranges. Thirty-eight field firing ranges have been taken away from the army and re-notified in this period, the army claims.

Oil vs Army

Army says its military training programmes will not affect oil and gas exploration work, but petroleum ministry has opposed its proposal. Many blocks in the said region have been allotted to M/s Focus Energy Ltd, ONGC and other oil companies for exploration purpose. Rajasthan principal secretary (mines and petroleum) has proposed that an alternative site be considered for the army’s training range. About 10 years ago, the army had 104 ranges across the country but the number has come down to 66

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