Storing a potential disaster

A recent raid by Food and Civil Supplies Department has revealed that several fishermen store huge quantity of kerosene in their home premises illegally, posing threat to their as well as others’ life in the case of any mishap.

According to Food and Civil Supplies Department Deputy Director Vrushabarajendra Murthy, each fisherman (licensed boat engine owner) is entitled to get 200 litres of subsidised kerosene for a month (excluding diesel quota) and there are 984 licensed fishermen in Dakshina Kannada district.

Since the fishermen can collect their quota of kerosene only twice in a month, about 8 to 10 fishermen form a group and they store the kerosene amounting upto 6,000 litres (may be more) in a particular place in a tank.

“Though the kerosene they procure is legal, the way in which it is stored is illegal,” Murthy said and added that recently he had raided one such unit where nearly 3,000 litres of kerosene was stored by a group of 10 fishermen, illegally.

“The car may be very good, the driver too may be an expert. But what if he does not have valid license?” he questions in a lighter vein.

In fact, it is said that there are at least 50 to 60 such storage tanks in the coastal region where each group stores huge quantity of kerosene illegally.

“As long as nothing happens, its fine. But what if something goes wrong. For example, what if a tank catches fire?” questions an officer.

On the contrary, the fishermen say that they have been storing kerosene in such tanks for many years and nothing has happened so far.

“We can procure kerosene only twice in a month. Where should we keep it? Hence, we form a group and store it in a tank, which is ‘safe,” the authorities claim.

Coastal Karnataka Fishermen Action Committee General Secretary Vasudeva Boloor said that the fishermen take all the safety measures and there are even persons to guard the storage premises.

Food and Civil Supplies Department Assistant Director Suresh Kumar said that the department books cases against persons storing kerosene under PDS (Public Distribution System) Control Order - 1992 and Kerosene Restriction on Use and Fixation of Price Order - 1993.

In fact, the offenders can be jailed too, he adds. But the interesting part is that the fishermen have been storing kerosene in such tanks for several years and all the authorities concerned know it very well. “You can find such tanks all along the coast,” says another officer who wants to be anonymous.

The recent booking of cases against 10 fishermen is an exception.

Highly subsidised

The fishermen (licensed) get kerosene at Rs 10 per litre whereas the market rate is anywhere between Rs 30 and Rs 35 per litre. Similarly, they get diesel for Rs 6 less than the market rate, informed Fisheries Department Deputy Director Suresh Kumar.

Each small boat requires about 15 litres of kerosene per day while bigger boats require much large quantity as they go for deep sea fishing for about 15 days. Smaller boats return within a day or two.

While smaller boats carry a load of about 500 kgs, bigger boats carry 50,000 kgs (50 tonnes) that includes about 20,000 kgs of ice, 10,000 litres of water and grocery to last for about 15 to 20 days.

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