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BW Businessworld

Coal India In A Spot After PESO Directive

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The Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisation (PESO) has directed Coal India Limited (CIL), other explosives users, sellers and manufacturers to use police escort each time they move explosives. Coal India  —  the largest consumer of explosives in the country —  uses explosives to blast the mines during coal extraction. CIL is the largest user of explosives in the country, shipping over Rs 3 crore worth of explosives to mines. It buys around 4 lakh tonnes of explosives worth Rs 800 crore every year.

PESO officials say the directive was issued under pressure from the home ministry which, perhaps, fears hijacking of such explosives.

The directive has put Coal India in a spot since it requires an army of personnel to manage the logistics of transporting explosives besides the nightmare of coordinating with the police administration of the districts in which they operate. The circular sent out in April was to be mandatory from the date of receipt but CIL and others have objected to the direction citing manpower shortage — both within CIL and the district administration.

It said the directive will eventually constrain its coal production. Meanwhile, the ministry of coal has written to the union home ministry to allow more time to CIL to make the provision of armed personnel.

The Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisation’s circular directs all manufacturers, sellers and users of explosives to have police personnel present and accompany any explosives being transported. The transporter is also required to inform the district administration, through which the explosives are being transported, in advance. If they fail to do so, suppliers lose licence under the Explosive Rules, 2008. CIL says a number of its suppliers have already stopped sending them explosives fearing licence cancelation.

The Joint Chief Controller of Explosives P.C. Srivastava says the circular was sent out at the instance of the union home ministry. Unwilling to comment on the need for this mandatory police presence or the responses from explosive users, Srivastava hinted that the circular is a response to the ongoing Maoist threat in the mineral rich areas but refused comment on complaints regarding any thefts of the unguarded explosives being transported till date.

Senior officials in the Nagpur-based PESO feel that the directive is impractical. “Shortage of police personnel is only one aspect of the larger problems that we are receiving, following the circulation of this order... The biggest hurdle at present is the limited jurisdiction of district police personnel,” says a PESO official. He explained that a number explosive users are sending them submissions requesting a revision of this order so that it takes into account the ground reality of no manpower, limited jurisdiction and resources of the explosive users. The official added that the order may not come into force as different stake holders are already in talks with the home minister to revisit the decision making police protection of explosives mandatory.