There has been a talk of the Netherland based Jubilant Oil and Gas Pvt Ltd negotiating a deal with a hill based underground faction regarding oil exploration in certain areas of Manipur for quite some time. Accusations have been flying around with a huge section of the hill people threatening to prevent the said underground faction from operating in their area. There was also talkin the past of some companies exploiting chromite in Ukhrul district with the tacit understanding of an underground faction. And a similar kind of arrangement has come out in the open in the case of oil exploration. We also hear of ‘serious money’ changing hands in the deal. If this is true, there is the possibility of crores and crores of rupees reaching the personal coffers of the powers that be, in the state. Despite public protests both in Imphal and the districts, the public hearing for the oil exploration has already started in Jiribam on July 30. The next public hearings are scheduled to be held at Parbung in Churachandpur dist on August 8 and at Nungba in Tamenglong dist on August 17. As usual, the Jiribam public hearing was an eyewash carrying out a ritual for the sake of it. The hearing was off-limits to most of the agitators as they were driven out by the police. The Jiribam ADC presided over officials and a few protestors and empty chairs. The Jubilant representative made a power point presentation on the environmental impact assessment (EIA) to the small gathering on the technicalities of the oil exploration which was Greek to most of them including the officials. Even then, 31 village authorities and the Committee on the Protection of Natural Resource in Manipur had submitted objections to the proposed exploration. Former Chairman of Jiri Municipal Council Tahenmang Panmei expressed reservations with the project as it would affect the flora of the region at the said hearing. For the record, 30 potential oil well locations have been identified in two exploration blocks located in Jiribam, Tamenglong and Churachandpur. According to estimates, 7 hectares will be required for each well which has an initial building estimate of Rs 40 crore. Multiply that 30 times and you have 1200 crores without other expenses including grease money. The objective of the exploration is to determine the potential of the crude oil reserves, dig wells and testing and further decommissioning wells which do not have adequate reserves. The general public needs to be explained in layman’s terms of both the merits and demerits of oil exploration including its hazards. Some of the hazards of oil drilling includes loss of well control resulting in blow out (crude oil erupting), fire, explosion and oil spills. The ONGC exploratory wells in Nagaland had devastated agricultural land, forests and water bodies. The prospective oil reserves of Manipur oil wells are calculated around 5000 billion cubic feet, which is much more that the Nagaland oil wells. We understand, oil is our resource and wealth. But, the public needs to be informed and only an informed public would be able to give an informed opinion. The time of conducting public hearing has not arrived yet. Only when the general public has become fully sensitized on the issue of oil exploration, such a hearing should be held. And we are fed up with the hearings conducted by the Manipur Pollution Control Board (MPCB). Where is the urgency? Why is the Jubilant group trying to rush the hearings? To us, there is no urgency and there is first a need for an informed public in the state. It is our environment and the people who are going to be exposed to danger and certainly not the Jubilant group. Besides, another area of serious concern for the public is the issue of militarization in the hill areas for either facilitating the work of oil companies or power giants. We sense a sinister design in the corporate driven militarization. And the people will come out strongly against such a design. Perhaps, the Jubilant group has not been properly briefed on how Manipur reacts to issues against them. Wait till the issue blows over.