Police seizing gelatin sticks is frequent news these days. In the month of February this year, more than 100 and 350 detonators were seized from a train passenger in Kerala at the Kozhikode Railway Station. The large haul of explosives was seized by the Railway Protection Force from a woman passenger of the Chennai-Mangalapuram Express.
Around 20 to 25 gelatin sticks have enough power to destroy a basement area which can bring down the building. Recently in Karnataka, at least six people were killed in a blast at a mine site after a bunch of gelatin sticks exploded in a vehicle. The blast was so powerful that it completely damaged the vehicle and the dead bodies could not be identified. If these gelatin sticks are so dangerous then how one is having easy access to them?
Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisation (PESO) has an online site there is one form given that has to be filled. Once a customer raises an indent online in specific form RE 11 and it is routed through the explosives department (PESO) portal and on receipt of RE-11. The company delivers the explosives and submits the details of the supplies (boxes in barcode) to the police department and PESO with online form RE -12. There are specialized vehicles in which these explosives are transported.
These gelatin sticks need a detonator to blast. If they were targeting a convoy, they could have used a timer. They could have given it a power source of a 9-watt battery and figure it to the timer to remote-control the blast. If it would have been an entire packet of 25, there is a barcode on the packet with which it can be traced or the place where it was bought from.
In a major revelation in the investigation into the quarry-related blasts, that killed 14 people in the state over the last month, it has now emerged that the two quarries where the blasts occurred, received their consignments of gelatin sticks from the same supplier in Telangana. In January, a blast at a quarry in Hunasodu village on the outskirts of Shivamogga had claimed eight lives. On Monday, a similar blast at Hirenagavalli in Chikkaballapur district had claimed six lives.
There were some anxieties that the gelatin sticks could be defective as both explosions occurred while the material was being transported. But, in both instances, the gelatin sticks were not being transported in secure ‘magazine vans’, but in ordinary trucks.
The police have traced the supplier and collected 54,000 samples of explosives and thousands of detonators from his godown to check whether they complied with safety parameters. The number of mines has increased, but not the number of trained explosive handlers. This means that semi-trained or untrained laborers are made to use the explosives, which is a grave mistake.
At Chikkaballapur, two people, including the owner and the person who allegedly supplied gelatin sticks to a quarry in Hirenagavali in Chikkaballapur district, where six people died in an explosion, have been arrested, taking the total number of arrests to seven. The owner, Nagaraj, was picked up locally, while another person, Ganesh, was arrested from Hosur in Tamil Nadu. Police had arrested three owners, Raghavendra Reddy, Venkatashiva Reddy and, Madhusudhan, and two others, Praveen and Riyaz. The CID has started its investigation.
Close on the heels of gelatin stick blasts at two quarries in the state, officials in Davangere launched a drive to identify quarries that are using explosive materials. The Department of Mines and Geology, along with police, on Wednesday found an electrical detonator at a stone quarry and defused it. They also booked a case against the owner of the quarry, Kumar Naik.
Similarly, a stolen Scorpio with gelatin sticks was found outside Antilia last month in Mumbai. During the investigation, Mansukh Hiren had told the police that the vehicle had been stolen on Feb 17 from Vikhroli where he had parked it after the steering wheel of the vehicle jammed. Sachin Vaze was the investigating officer of the case before he was replaced by ACP Nitin Alakhnure. On March 6, Hiren’s body was fished out from Kalwa creek near Reti Bunder after he was reported missing by his family a few hours earlier. The case has now been taken over by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) while the ATS registered a murder case in connection with Hiren’s death.