Oil row: Nagaland stands up to Veerappa Moily

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Petroleum Minister M Veerappa Moily Petroleum Minister M Veerappa Moily
SummaryCiting special constitutional powers, state shortlists firms for oil exploration, ignores Centre.

of awarding works to companies so far shortlisted. We have not replied to the petroleum minister’s letter yet [Rio spoke to The Indian Express on December 12] but will do so very soon. The minister has called our legislation unconstitutional. This is incorrect, what we have done is entirely within the ambit of the Constitution and in keeping with Article 371 A which confers upon the state of Nagaland special status.”

On the pressure from the ministry:

“Why has the Union petroleum ministry woken up now, just as we are about to actually award works to the companies that we have shortlisted? Why was there no objection when the rules were framed and when they were informed of it last year? The ministry’s attitude is in contravention of Article 371 A of the Constitution.’’

On the implications of the dispute:

“This is a very very big issue in Nagaland, and we Nagas are very sensitive about it. The Indian government is trying to work out a solution with underground groups to bring the Indo-Naga conflict to a final resolution. But why will the underground groups, or even the rest of the Naga people, enter into an agreement with the Indian government if the government is incapable of even honouring the first 16-point agreement of 1960?” [The agreement spelt out Nagaland’s status within the Union of India].

On Article 371 A:

“Legal experts [consulted by the government both within the state and outside] have made the matter very clear. We have no option but to strictly go by the constitutional provision in Article 371 A, which gives special status to the state of Nagaland — and which means that no Act of Parliament is applicable to us unless we pass it in the state assembly, and also that the ownership of land and its resources lies entirely with Nagaland and its people.”

On Nagaland’s objectives:

“We are of course prepared to talk to the Government of India and resolve the issue as early as possible. But we cannot continue to be poor like this [he calls Nagaland “wholly reliant on the Centre” and believes that the possibility of oil excavation will end that dependence] and not utilise our resources.”

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