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The Hindu Editorial |A blast and some questions | 15 September 2015

The Hindu Editorial |A blast and some questions | 15 September 2015
A horrific blast in Petlawad, in Jhabua district of Madhya Pradesh, has claimed the lives of about a hundred people. It was caused by a stockpile of gelatine sticks stored illegally in a building. The detonation, which ripped through a three-storey residential-cum-commercial complex that also housed an eatery, raises disturbing questions about the practice of illegally storing explosives in congested residential areas.

Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan was heckled when he arrived in the town to visit the families of the dead, and the State government immediately took the predictable corrective measure — of suspending the local Station House Officer, for not having taken action against the illegal storage of explosives. However, the real problem goes deeper and involves the question of proper regulation of the sale, purchase and subsequent monitoring of explosive materials across the country.
The Hindu Editorial |A blast and some questions | 15 October 2015
The Hindu Editorial |A blast and some questions | 15 October 2015

According to reports, there are a number of unauthorised contractors in Jhabua district with significant stockpiles of gelatine sticks and detonators, largely to aid the business of sinking wells for irrigation. Rajendra Kasawa, the owner of the seed and fertilizer shop where the stockpile caused the devastation, is only one such
The sale and transport of such explosive materials is meant to be regulated by the Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisation, under the Union Commerce and Industry Ministry. PESO has now claimed, with alacrity, that no licences had been issued to Mr. Kasawa. But an incident like this raises a multitude of questions about the ability of a Central agency to monitor all explosive substances everywhere in the country. PESO has its headquarters in Nagpur and it is responsible for the administration of a host of laws pertaining to the regulation of explosives. These include the Explosives Act, 1884; the Inflammable Substances Act, 1952 and the Explosives Rules, 2008. In 2011, the agency announced plans to computerise its operations but that project still appears to be a work in progress.

At the district level, the police and the Collector have access to a portal that features data on the sale of all explosive materials through legal vendors, but a system is yet to be worked out for a real-time tracing and tracking programme. A better system should enable a process of decentralisation by allowing States to make their own laws to regulate explosives and have an Explosives Control Bureau, like the Narcotics Control Bureau. Such a step, that will allow the States to take control of what happens in their own backyard, is overdue.


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