After official’s death, oil ministry to tackle adulteration (Lead)

January 27th, 2011 - 11:09 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Jan 27 (IANS) Petroleum Minister S.Jaipal Reddy Thursday condemned the burning alive of a Maharashtra government official by the oil mafia and said his ministry will take steps to prevent adulteration of kerosene, including reintroducing the marker system.Nashik district additional collector Yashwant Sonawane was Jan 25 burnt alive in Panewadi, near Manmad, when he went to conduct a raid on the local oil mafia for pilferage from kerosene tankers.

Condemning the killing, Reddy said: “We believe he died a heroic death. He died while performing a lofty duty. He was a martyr.” The petroleum minister said that oil companies have decided to pay Rs.25 lakh by way of ex-gratia relief to his family.

The minister said the incident “once again highlighted the problem of adulteration”.

“There is, therefore, a need to respond to this problem in systematic terms,” he said, adding that certain policy decisions have been taken after a meeting with marketing chiefs of state oil companies.

Reddy said that oil companies will be reintroducing the marker system in kerosene within six months, which means adding a dye to the fuel to prevent pilferage.

Three years ago, the marker system was introduced, but it was withdrawn due to safety concerns. Now, a “superior marker” has been developed by the oil companies, which will be sent for further toxicological studies.

“After we have identified the marker, we are going in for checking the quality of marker from the angle of toxicology. Reference has been made to the Indian Institute of Technology at Lucknow to show if it has toxicological implications,” said Reddy.

Besides, the petroleum ministry will be urging state governments to introduce GPS-based vehicular tracking system in tankers and trucks, as once the fuel leaves the gates of the depot, it is under the charge of the food and civil supplies departments.

“We are prepared to lend management… to enable them to introduce the GPS in their respective states,” said Reddy, adding that the incident could have been prevented if GPS had been installed on the trucks.

Thirdly, all information related to the transportation of fuel will be uploaded on an online system. “When the truck leaves the depot, the quantity and time of departure and the data should be uploaded and made available online. So that the authorities are alerted. People are alerted,” he said.

At the same time, Reddy ruled out any price rise in diesel and other non-petrol oil products, admitting that it will not be politically feasible.

“First of all, the answer is in your question - (it is) politically difficult. We are working in a democracy, not in an autocracy. Whatever is politically feasible, is sensible,” Reddy said in response to a query whether a price hike for diesel and other fuels will be too sensitive politically.

Reacting to Planning Commission’s Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia’s remark to reporters at the World Economic Forum in Davos that the murder of Sonawane was a reflection of the “large price difference” which leads to the creation of an illegal market, Reddy said: “Let me make it clear, I agree with Montek in theory. But I would like him to examine if it is practically and politically feasible.”

The oil marketing companies recently raised the price of petrol by about Rs.2.50 per litre. The government decontrolled petrol prices in June last year, allowing the oil marketing companies to set the price according to the international crude prices.

But, the prices of diesel, cooking gas and kerosene continue to be controlled and the products subsidised by the government.

The oil companies are said to be suffering a loss of Rs.7.65 per litre of diesel, Rs.19.60 per litre of kerosene and Rs.366.28 per cylinder of cooking gas in their sales.

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