Govt to re-introduce chemical marker in kerosene in six months

Two days after a local oil mafia in Maharashtra burnt alive an additional collector, the government on Thursday unveiled steps including re-introduction of a chemical marker in kerosene to reduce adulteration.

New Delhi: Two days after a local oil
mafia in Maharashtra burnt alive an additional collector, the
government on Thursday unveiled steps including re-introduction of a
chemical marker in kerosene to reduce opportunities of the
subsidised fuel being diverted for adulteration.

"We learnt with shock about the heinous killing of
Additional Collector Yashwant Sonawane (who was set on fire by
the oil mafia in Manmad on January 24 while attempting to stop
diversion of PDS kerosene). He died a martyr to the cause of
anti-adulteration drive," Petroleum Minister S Jaipal Reddy
told a news conference here.
Announcing an ex-gratia of Rs 25 lakh to the family of
Sonawane, he said the responsibility of distribution of
subsidised kerosene through the Public Distribution System
(PDS) rests with state governments and it was their duty to
see that subsidised fuel is not diverted for adulteration.

A litre of kerosene costs Rs 12.32 a litre while
diesel is priced at Rs 37.75 a litre. The huge difference
makes it lucrative for diverting kerosene for mixing in

An estimated 40 to 60 per cent of the 9.5 million tons
of kerosene Centre annually allocates to states is diverted
once it leaves the oil company depots.

"This incident has once again highlighted the problem
of kerosene being used for adulteration. There is a need to
respond to the problem in systematic term," Reddy said.

Reddy said an improved chemical marker will be doped
in kerosene to make its mixing with diesel near impossible.

"The kerosene marker system (which was withdrawn in
2009) will be reintroduced in the next six months," he said.

The government had in 2006 introduced a dye sourced
from US firm Authentix in kerosene but withdrew it in 2009
pending toxology tests.

Also, Reddy suggested that the states use GPS-based
vehicular tracking system like the one being used for vehicles
transporting petrol and diesel to track the movement, any
route deviations being taken or long stoppages.

"It is an effective tool in warding off incidences of
pilferage and diversion leading to adulteration which may
taken place during the period of untracked transportation," he
said, adding oil companies would provide technological and
institutional support to the state governments for installing
GPS on tank trucks transporting kerosene.

Besides, oil companies will provide online real-time
information on loading of kerosene trucks, quantity and time
of departure from their depots so that state authorities can
check any route diversion, he said.
Once kerosene trucks leave oil company depots, they
make unscheduled stoppages where the fuel is pilfered and what
state civil supplies department receive is much less and often
diluted quantities of kerosene.

Reddy said: "We urge the state government
(Maharashtra) to take stringent steps to see all those
involved are punished in proper way."

Sonawane was burnt alive because he tried to film
kerosene being stolen from an oil tanker on his cellphone.

"We are aware that the (kerosene) marker system
prevailed for a couple of years, it was found to be somewhat
effective. However there were some complaints about its safety
(and so) the system was withdrawn," Reddy said, adding that
oil companies through in-house research have found an
effective marker.

He urged state governments to use GSP to check
pilferage, dilution and adulteration.

"Under GPS, if a truck stops at a point for more than
a period of time, its considered time deviation. In case a
truck adopts a wrong route it will be routed under GPS as
route deviation.

"Same GPS system have to be introduced by the
states. We are prepared to lend technologists, management
assistants at our costs to the state government to enable them
to introduce GPS," he said.

"We will also introduce the system of online updates.
The quantity, time of departure of the truck will be uploaded
online. We will urge the state governments to follow (these),"
Reddy said.