The death of 78 persons in the Petlawad blast due to storage of illegal gelatin rods and explosives has rattled the administration but rampant flouting of the Explosives Rules- 2008 has made it virtually impossible for the administration to check its misuse.
“This is true that the Explosive Rules-2008 are not followed by licence holders and is not monitored properly by the administration and police,” said a SP, posted in Indore region.
Sources said the magazine (a very thick metal trunk in which explosives are kept) holder also secures more than half-a-dozen shot fire or blaster licence — needed for blasting gelatin in mines or wells — in the name of others, make fake entries in the books and then sell the explosives illegally.
“The modus operandi is simple. The magazine owner enters in his book that he has sold this many gelatin sticks to this blaster licence holder. Fake entries are made in both the books and the gelatin sticks are sold to a third party. All maintained records are fake and no one knows how many explosives they have blasted and how many are still with them,” said a source with experience.
The same method came out when Neemuch police started investigation into a blast on September 21 and found that two people — Nepal Singh Sondhia and Prahlad Dhangar — have shot fire licenses.
When police asked them for their licenses, they said that they had not seen their licenses for the last five years and that magazine owner Ratan Lal Gujar had them.
Police raided Ratan Lal Gujar’s magazine but he fled and is still absconding.
An officer said if the police and administration want to implement the rules under the act, they would have to manually monitor godowns where explosives are stored by the license holder and inquire the whereabouts of usage of the explosives, which is not possible because of manpower crunch. The Petroleum Explosives Safety Organization, which is the monitoring agency, also lacks the necessary manpower.
“The district collector permits blasting for seven days before the blast and it is duty of the blaster to inform the local police but they rarely do so. Most blasts are without the consent of district administration,” said another SP of Madhya Pradesh.
As per sources from the police, most of the storage is not done in licensed magazines but are kept in the open, as it happened in Petlawad.
“Even the effectiveness of magazines is under suspicion. The license holders seldom get lightening conductors on their magazines tested for continuity and resistance. Most of the time, they keep stock of explosives more than the licensed capacity,” said a senior police officer.
Senior police officials also claimed that magazine owners often sell explosives to people who are not certified blasters. After the blasting is done, the remaining gelatin rods are again sold illegally.
Some people also store high explosives and detonators together, as customers of gelatin rods also want detonators.