Police on Tuesday seized a truck with 24 tonnes of explosives at Indore-Ahmedabad route near a Shani temple in Sardarpur.
The truck (MP09 HF7637) was allegedly carrying 408 bags of explosives weighing 24 tonnes.
Two people including the truck driver have been arrested. The truck was on its way from Gujarat to Singrauli. Forensic Team and Sardarpur Police have begun investigating the matter.
This comes days after a blast in Madhya Pradesh’s Jhabua district involving gelatin rods had killed more than 90 people while injuring scores of other people.
The owner of the shop, where the gelatin rods were stored in Jhabua is on the run and police are desperately searching for him and his two brothers.
Jhabua police is also investigating if Rajendra Kaswa, the shop owner, had stockpiled the explosive substance illegally.
Superintendent of Jhabua, GP Pande, told jantakareporter, ” Rajendra Kaswa had LE 10 licence, which allows him to carry out overground blasts. But we are not sure if he had the required licence to stockpile and sell gelatin rods in.”
The smuggling of gelatins has been a major concern for the law enforcing agencies as they feared the explosives could be used for unlawful activities. To sell gelatin sticks in black market is quite a lucrative business.
Most of the gelatin sticks smuggled into Madhya Pradesh, originates from a government factory in Dholpur in neighbouring Rajasthan. While these consignments are meant to be used by licence holders, police say that often the explosives laden trucks disappear on way to their destination.
A senior police office in Jhabua told jantakareporter.com that between January and August 2010, as many as 163 trucks had gone missing. Police arrested seven accused, but all of them were later acquitted because of lack of evidence against them.
Sagar police was, however, able to lodge a case against another 11 people, including Shivcharan Heda, a trader who deals in explosives, his wife Deepa, Jaikishan Aaswani, Devendra Thakur and RECL officials.
Court found Shivcharan, Deepa, Aaswani and Thakur guilty under IPC sections 468 (forgery for the purpose of cheating) and relevant sections of Explosives Act, 1984. They were sentenced to eight-year jail term each to the four under IPC and Explosives Act.
But the missing explosives laden trucks could never be traced.
Locals say that Kaswa has been blatantly flouting the Explosives Rules 2008, which bar the licence holders from storing such substances in areas, where explosions can take place,
Article 13 of Explosives Rules says, “The interior of every building or room used for storage of explosives and the benches, shelves and fittings in such building or room shall be so constructed or so lined or covered as to prevent the exposure of any iron or steel and the detachment of any grit, iron, steel or similar substance so as to come into contact with explosive in such building and such interior benches, shelves and fittings shall, so far as is reasonably practicable, be kept clean and free from grit.”
Then there are questions on why gelatin in such high quantity was allowed to be stored close to so-called ‘protected works’ assuming Rajendra Kaswa, the shop owner, was legitimately selling these explosive substances?
The guidelines say, “The store house licensed for possession of fireworks or safety fuse shall maintain safety distance of 30 metres from protected works and minimum 45 metres from any such premises or any other premises used for storage of similar explosives, flammable or hazardous materials.”
Under the Explosives Rules 2008, the definition of protected works includes “buildings or structures in which persons dwell, work or assemble, college, school, hospital, theatre, cinema house, shop, market, factory, place of worships, place of storage of hazardous substances, highway or public road, railway line, navigable waterways, cross country above ground pipelines, dams or reservoirs, overhead high tension power lines, but does not include cart tracks not in regular use, agricultural wells and pump sets connected therewith.”
The site of the blasts, that killed more than 90 people last week appears to have been flouting all these guidelines as this was not only adjacent to a busy restaurant but also very close to a busy bus stop and a highway. In fact, one of the reasons why the death toll was so high was because it was situated in the middle of a heavily populated area.
Then there are serious questions on whether Kaswa was legally allowed to store and sell gelatin, which is categorised as the most high risk explosives by the Pteroleum and Explosives Safety Organisation (PESO)- the body that regulates the manufacturing, storage and sale of explosives in India.
Documents obtained by jantakareporter.com reveal that Kaswa was only granted the LE 10 licence, which entitled him to carry out overground blasts and he was required to obtain what’s known as form 21 to store and sell gelatin or detonators.
Even the local police say that they have no records of Kaswa having obtained form 21. So, how was he allowed to operate with impunity for so many years? Jhabua’s IG, Maheshwari says that all these questions will be answered after the investigation is complete and they have arrested Kaswa and his two brothers.
PESO is required to carry out periodic checks on all the licensed storage facilities of these explosives primarily to ensure they are not being misused at a time when terror threats in the country are becoming increasingly dangerous.
According to 2006-07 annual report published by PESO, they could only inspect 22.21 percent licensed units in that year. That effectively meant that PESO was only able to inspect 4,944 out of 23, 349 licensed units across India.
Since Kaswa appears to have been selling explosives unlawfully, the onus would be on the probe team to find out how he escaped the net of law enforcing agencies for so many years. Or did he enjoy the patronage of the high and mighty, who simply chose to look the other way against some suspected quid pro quo deal? The answer to this question will be vital for the families of Jhabua blast victims to be able to have much-needed closure on this tragedy.