"ONGC has been here for 40-50 years and agriculture was fine. Now, there is no rain and therefore no water. How can you blame ONGC for this?" asks a man leaning against a thatched hut as he lectures an 'ignorant' woman standing with her daughter. He seems to be sitting in a village, next to his home.
Another man besides him chides the lady saying, "The bike your husband dropped you by, petrol for it is provided by ONGC."
That is not all, they even ask, "The LPG cylinders you use come from ONGC. You cook with that and protest against them?"
All these comments and the characters effortlessly making them are part of a video, that form ONGC's latest efforts to fight the criticism they are facing online over their operations at Kathiramangalam in Thanjavur district. A series of these videos meant to provide counter-propaganda to protect the oil major's image have been uploaded on a Youtube channel called CC ONGC Karaikal. According to the description available, it has been created by the Corporate Communications team of the Cauvery Asset (Karaikal).
The woman in the video was subjected to these remarks for a simple question she asked - "They say that the quality of water is changing because of ONGC's activities?"
The final blow delivered in this one and a half minute propoganda video is from her daughter. "Didn't I keep telling you there is no connection to this and ONGC," says the little girl in the school uniform, giving her mom a soft knock on the head as the men sitting there laugh. Voila! The woman is reformed and swears never to believe a word against ONGC.
Of the five videos available on the page, three explain the processes that ONGC follows while the other two uses actors to convey ONGC's message to the public. It is pretty clear that the corporation not only intends to dismiss allegations of water contamination due to its exploratory activities but it also expects, residents of the village to be grateful for the oil, petroleum and natural gas that they receive.
In the second staged video, a farmer is deep in thought about whether to give his land to the ONGC for exploratory activities. Once again he is portrayed as ignorant and those who support ONGC as far more knowledgeable. He is told he will be paid handsomely for the land and it will even be given back in the same condition, if oil is not found.
"If they don't find oil, they spend Rs 40 lakh and give you the land back in the condition that you gave it to them," says one actor to the man playing the role of a farmer.
A claim made with little proof, considering how ONGC could not provide details on the state of 517 abandoned wells in the state, when questioned last month. Only 183 of 700 wells are currently operational in the state.
When a well is abandoned, the casing pipes are retrieved and cement plugging is done to cut it off from the surface. By their own admission, when well turns out to be dry, the land is restored to its original condition and handed back to its owner. The officials who addressed the media in July however, could not supply any data on how many of these abandoned wells were restored and made cultivable again.
In this video, too, the farmer's proverbial eyes are opened to how good the ONGC is, and he decides to give away his land to them.
While the villagers in Kathiramangalam are complaining that the water they pump out is brown and dirty, the video shows a woman claiming she is coming from a great distance to drink the water.
"ONGC has merely provided rhetoric and failed to back it up with scientific facts," says Piyush Manush, an environment activist who has closely been following the protests at Kathiramangalam. "They claim that the water quality has reduced because there is no rain. How does that make sense? How is quantity connected to quality?" he asks.