Army fuel, kerosene pilfered in Kashmir ValleyApril 11th, 2008 - 12:47 pm ICT by admin
By Binoo Joshi
Jammu, April 11 (IANS) Thousands of litres of petrol and kerosene are pilfered from Indian Army supplies in Kashmir Valley in what is clearly a well-organised racket, according to traders, police and military sources. It has been widely talked about in the valley that fuel meant for soldiers deployed in the region often finds its way into the black market. But officials are only now beginning to reveal some of the sordid details.
A senior police officer told IANS here that over 20 cases related to theft of army petrol had been registered in the past four months.
“At least 20 cases have been registered regarding pilferage of army supplies,” the official said on the condition of anonymity.
The racket is masterminded by a group of civilians who have links to both the army and the Indian Oil Corp (IOC), which supplies fuel to the military.
Oil supplied to the army is transported in private tankers. These tankers have locks with two keys - one the IOC has while the army gets to keep another.
Those engaged in the racket use their connections to get hold of a duplicate key and hand it over to the tanker driver.
The driver is told to offload a certain quantity of oil at a specified point, according to Anand Sharma, president of the Petrol Tankers Association here, who has monitored the racket closely.
Colonel D.K. Kachari, public relations officer of the army’s Northern Command headquarters at Udhampur, about 70 km from Jammu, confirmed “discrepancy in oil supplies” in some fuel tankers. But he added: “There is no such known nexus (army-drivers-agents) in oil supplies.”
The police are more forthcoming.
A police officer alleged that a group of military personnel ransacked the Magam police station in Budgam district in September 2007 after the police caught some soldiers allegedly involved in the illegal sale of kerosene.
A senior police officer in Kupwara in north Kashmir added: “Our men seized around 6,000 litres of oil about a month back. We are investigating who the owner was… I cannot say anything more on the telephone.”
Another officer in Sopore, also in north Kashmir, confirmed the existence of the racket by saying: “Such cases have surfaced time and again.”
Sharma said: “A large quantity of the army’s oil supply gets pilfered because of a nexus among army personnel, tanker drivers and agents. Indeed, over 50 percent of the supplies are pilfered. This is worth hundreds of millions of rupees.”
He said that army fuel supplies to Kupwara and Baramulla were the worst hit.
“Recently, a tanker, JK 02W 2245, was apprehended with 6,000 litres of diesel by people from the Field Petroleum Depot in the Chowkibal area in Kupwara, he said. “But the driver was whisked away by the army after being detained for 10 days.”
The police in Kupwara, about 100 km from Srinagar, have registered cases against driver Kuki Singh of tanker JK 02G 5504 and driver Vikram Singh of tanker JK 02X 7847.
One man engaged in the scam told IANS on telephone from Pantha Chowk at the edge of Srinagar: “We sell the army supplies to petrol pumps or to customers.”
Sharma alleged that corrupt army personnel earned 50 percent of the money generated by the sale of pilfered oil. The rest was divided among the driver, the middleman and the fuel outlet.
Asked about oil pilferage, Col Kachari said: “The queries raised are in generic terms and hence it will take some time to check these from the entire command zone.
“The army has no place for people indulging in such corruption. In case there are any such instances, then severe disciplinary and corrective action will be taken.”