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(A mining site explosion. Edited image courtesy: Vetrivel)
 
Regulatory & safety bumps continue to snare #MakeInIndia initiative in the explosives sector. This is in spite of the fact the process of elaboration, fine-tuning and tightening of regulations has been going for almost a decade. 
 
The Government is now engaged in specifying precise roles to be performed by Nagpur-based Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisation (PESO) and district administration in licensing of explosives production units.
The issue that has lately engaged the Government’s attention is: Whether PESO would carry out inspection and audit of explosives factories as provided for under the Explosives Rules or whether this task should be delegated entirely to the district administration.
This issue has emerged against the backdrop of certain bizarre instances detected by Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and State Governments, according to sources associated with the explosives regulation.  
A case in point is Jaipur-based Deejay Dynamix Explosives Pvt Limited’s application for manufacture of slurry emulsion/bulk explosives and ammonium nitrate mixed with fuel oil (ANFO). 
PESO as well as the Explosives Section of Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) recommended to inter-ministerial Industrial Licensing Committee (ILC) for grant of licence to Deejay for expansion of capacity to 30,000 tonnes per annum (tpa) from 12,000 tpa. 
Rajasthan Government, on the other hand, has not recommended the company’s capacity expansion application. The State told the Centre that Deejay’s unit was found closed when its officials visited it for inspection. They found “old scrap and trucks” at the site. The security guard could not establish communication with the unit’s owner. State Government’s request to owner for provision of requisite documents including project report did not result in any response. 
As noted by ILC secretariat, it appears that PESO and DIPP’s technical wing have recommended Deejay’s application without undertaking any field visit. The duo also did not ascertain as to whether the company was utilizing existing production capacity of 12000 tpa. 
Deejay's name figures in the PESO's list of authorized explosive manufacturers. This list, which is validated up to December 2015 is, available on PESO's website.
Another case in point is Vetrivel Explosives (P) Ltd, a Salem-based manufacturer-cum-exporter in Tamil Nadu. MHA last year told ILC that the company’s products were found in a truck that was transporting explosives without licence at Port Blair. The truck was intercepted by Andaman & Nicobar Police. 
MHA, however, noted that police investigations have not found any direct link between persons arrested in this case and Vetrivel. 
While recommending the company’s latest application for manufacture of all kind of detonators and fuse, MHA advised DIPP to direct concerned agencies to follow security procedures to prevent recurrence of such cases.  MHA also requested DIPP to direct PESO to examine security arrangements at units in keeping with regulations. 
On this specific issue, DIPP’s Explosives Section reminded MHA that ILC had decided in September 2015 that a copy of the industrial licence issued to any unit should be marked to district magistrate and superintendent of police of the area where unit is located. The district administration should be advised to examine the security arrangement and other relevant stipulations mentioned in industrial licence.
MHA has not appreciated this reply from DIPP’s Explosives Section, which was asked to take up Vetrivel case with PESO. 
PESO is expected to conduct inspection and audit of new unit for verification of facilities at the time of grant of licences. It is also required to undertake periodic inspection of units. PESO is thus required to exercise due diligence before recommending grant of licence to any unit, official sources say.
In an earlier licensing plea of Vetrivel, MHA recommended approval in November 2009 with a proviso: “However, physical security around magazines and manufacturing units has to be increased to check trespass by any unauthorized person(s).” 
The Government has been detailing and revising the policy for licensing of manufacture, storage, transport and marketing of explosives in bits and pieces since 2007
ILC, for instance, last month decided that for applications that come under simultaneous ambit of explosives and defence sectors, the time limit for receipt of comments shall be three months.
Informed sources say that after three months, DIPP will send a letter to Chief Secretary of State where an explosive unit is to be located / expanded to provide its comments, failing which ILC would consider the project proposal at its next meeting. The State Government would be requested to depute its official to the ILC meeting. If official does not attend the meeting, then ILC would construe it as State Government’s approval for the project. 
In November 2015, ILC accepted PESO’s recommendation to facilitate manufacture of explosives for the defence sector, Indian Space Research Organization and any other special application including induction of new technologies. 
ILC also decided to consider application s for manufacture of bulk explosives keeping in view security and safety factors.  
According to PESO’s annual report for 2014-15, “In order to control the misuse of explosives the organization in association with National Informatics Centre (NIC) is continuously working towards the real time online tracking and tracing system of explosives from manufacturer level to end user. The organisation has chalked out a programme for tracking and tracing of explosives for trial.”
It adds: “The provision of putting GPRS system in the explosives vans to track the position of vans at any point of time, deviation from the assigned route and delivery of the explosives to the assigned location is under active consideration of the organisation.”
A security analyst suggests that the Centre should involve Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) personnel or State Armed Police in safeguarding explosives along the entire supply chain, keeping in view the limitations of local police.  
If CISF personnel can be deputed at the premises of big companies, there is no reason why they can’t be posted to prevent explosives’ pilferage from supply chain to terrorists including so-called left wing radicals. 
Simultaneously, the Government should put in place a radio frequency identification device (RIFD)-based system for tracking and tracing explosives across the entire value chain right from factory gate to detonation.
PESO should also specify conversion norms for all products. This would help auditors match the usage of inputs with manufacture of products and minimize scope for unauthorized diversion / production of explosives or its inputs. 
 
 
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