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White kerosene diverted for use in vehicles

John L Paul

`Powerful lobby is acting in State to divert it for use as fuel in buses, trucks, autorickshaws'


  • It attracts a low sales tax of 12 per cent
  • Adulterated fuel seized from bunks
  • SKO import should be regulated

    KOCHI: Investigators aided by an NGO were in for a surprise when they dug up details on the sudden spurt in consumption of white kerosene (superior kerosene oil - SKO) in the State, a few months back.

    It was revealed that despite the increase in the number of diesel vehicles in Kerala, the quantity of diesel consumed was not increasing.

    But the quantity of SKO, of which just 40,000 metric tonnes was imported through the Kochi port in 1999-2000, went up to 3,50,000 metric tonnes in 2002-2003.

    "The figures spoke for themselves. The import of SKO increased manifold, in proportion to the fall in diesel consumption," says the former Joint Transport Commissioner and IG of Police, Jacob Thomas.

    He is now the Managing Director of Supplyco.

    "A powerful lobby is acting in Kerala to import SKO in bulk and divert it for use as fuel in buses, trucks, autorickshaws... etc.,.

    But they managed to obtain a stay from the Kerala High Court when a case was filed on the rampant diversion/misuse of SKO," he says.

    The case was filed based on the findings in the joint raid conducted in different parts of the State by the Anti-Adulteration Cell of the Union Petroleum Ministry, personnel of the State Motor Vehicles Department, State Police, Sales Tax Department and Supplyco, assisted by volunteers of Janapaksham.

    Adulterated fuel was seized from a few bunks.

    There was a scuffle between the raiding team and employees at a fuel bunk in Palakkad and the State convener of Janapaksham, Benny Joseph, has been served with a summons in this regard.

    "This shows that whistle-blowers who expose malpractices are being troubled even in Kerala, just like in Bihar. Instead of protecting them, the police have issued summons. After all, usage of SKO in vehicles is a public-health issue," says Mr. Thomas.

    A senior official in the Petroleum Conservation and Research Association (PCRA) admitted that SKO, which was to be used in factories, is diverted in bulk for use in buses, trucks, autorickshaws and even in two-wheelers. "Apart from direct diversion from ports and filling stations, it is diverted from rations shops. The Petroleum Ministry has now clamped down on the practice and imported SKO is now channelised through oil companies," he says.

    Apart from costing much lower than diesel and petrol, kerosene attracts a low sales tax of 12 per cent.

    This at a time when the State Government charges 24 per cent ST on diesel and 28 per cent on petrol. This is one reason why SKO is preferred over other fuels.

    The State convener of Janapaksham, Benny Joseph says that in the joint raids which were held a few months back, 21 heavy vehicles and four bunks in Palakkad were caught red-handed by the team, while selling/buying SKO.

    "Many heavy vehicles use SKO as fuel, instead of diesel. In the Kukkiparambu bus accident, which claimed the lives of many people, SKO was found in the bus' fuel tank. Oil companies have found that from 1999, despite a 30 per cent increase in sale of diesel vehicles, there was a fall in diesel sales in the State," he says.

    The Government should regulate the import of SKO and hike its sales tax. Surprise checks should be conducted in bunks and vehicles to know whether they sell/buy SKO, Mr. Joseph adds.

    A petrol-bunk dealer in the district said that kerosene which was to be distributed among tsunami victims too is being diverted by shops and wholesalers to operators of heavy vehicles and outboard engine boats, in an organised manner.

    Bunks selling SKO can be seen in many parts of the State. Those which used to sell three to four loads of SKO per month a decade back now sell 20 to 25 loads, he said.

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