By Rafi Adeen, Contributing Editor, The Rahnuma Daily (therahnuma.com)
Hyderabad (Rahnuma) In a shocking incident on November 4, the tehsildar of Abdullahpurmet near Hyderabad was set ablaze at her office by a local farmer in broad daylight over a suspected land dispute. The official identified as Vijaya Reddy succumbed to burns. The accused doused the deceased with Petrol and set her ablaze. Close to 3 weeks since the incident, a 26-year-old veterinarian was raped and killed by four truck drivers on November 27 at Tondapalli toll plaza on the outskirts of the city. Later, they burnt the body by pouring petrol on it.
The four accused arrested in connection with the rape and murder of a 26-year-old veterinarian in Hyderabad were killed in an alleged encounter with the police. When they were taken to recreate the scene of their crime early morning on Friday, they attempted to escape by snatching weapons from the police, in self-defence police shot them down. Family members of the victim have expressed joy and have expressed their gratitude for swift justice.
Hyderabad Police is being lauded by a large section of people after the news of the killing of four accused persons in the Hyderabad rape and murder came to light. However, just until hours before the alleged encounter, the police force was facing flak for failing to fulfil its duties on the day the crime was committed.
While many have hailed the police action, the National Human Rights Commission has condemned the extra-judicial killings of the accused. NHRC has sent a special investigation team to Hyderabad this morning to reconstruct the circumstances and scrutinize the findings.
Legal experts have also opined that as per the law, a probe should be immediately conducted into the reported encounter since their deaths have come while they were in the custody of the police.
It does not take a genius to find one commonality in both these incidents, it was the use of Petrol by the culprits to commit the heinous crime.
A few days after the Abdullahpurmet incident, few prominent newspapers of the city carried a news bit reporting Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao took a key decision based on the findings of a special investigation committee that reviewed the gruesome incident. As per the recommendations of the committee, nowhere in Telangana state should petrol bunks dispense petrol in the plastic bottles.
However, the notification is available neither on the Telangana government civil supplies website nor on the Telangana CMO official webpage which is quite deplorable. “Nevertheless”, ban on sale or precaution on sale of loose petrol in plastic bottles even after the ghastly incident on the woman MRO on duty, is not evident from the governmental side either from ministries or from the police department.
If the so-called official statement was issued by the CMO, why was there a no press release held by the Chief Minister issuing a verbal commitment on the burning issue? Why has it not been implemented immediately throughout the state? Why is there a lapse in the initiation and implementation of the law?
Though its a known fact that “As per section 8 of Petroleum Rules 2002, It is illegal to buy petrol in an empty plastic bottle from a petrol pump in India.”
To get to the root of the matter and unearth the ground reality, on the evening of 3rd December 2019 at around 9 PM, the I myself visited the JS Fuels Petrol Bunk that is on the road leading to Kothur about 40 Km from Hyderabad. This is the very Petrol pump from where the accused purchased the petrol to dispose off the body of the veterinary doctor.
To my surprise, the maintenance of the petrol pump is a far cry from the ones located elsewhere. It is poorly lit given the dark hours of the night which is quite appalling. The manager of the pump was missing from the bunk, evidently shirking his duties. One knows quite well, it is not a child’s play to run smooth operations of any pump without the person in charge overseeing the activities, it is a vocation that relies totally on attentiveness.
Under these awful state of affairs, the pump at that point in time was being managed by three people of whom one is a watchman who is not a native of Telangana, accompanying him were two youngsters who by the appearance looked around the age of 20 and are visibly not experienced for the job.
On the pretext of refuelling the vehicle, I started a casual chat with the youth namely Srinivas and Srinu (names changed to conceal identity). I came to an understanding that none of the two is a literate, nor trained extensively on carrying out day to day procedures that are essential to perform one’s duty at the bunk.
During the course of the enquiry, it came to light that one among the duo dispensed petrol worth rupees 130 in a plastic bottle to the accused. Noticing the antics of the imbeciles, one gets an impression that they were least affected by the recent horrendous tragedy for which they are equally at blame. Instead, they took great pride in claiming pompously that they were the first to report it to the Police personnel the next morning.
When posed with the question as to why they dispensed petrol in a plastic bottle which is totally against the law, they blatantly displayed sheer ignorance of the Petroleum laws that were amended in 2002. They laughed off the fact that handing out petrol in a bottle is no big deal, as it comes as second nature to them and there is nothing to feel awkward about it.
To fortify their stance, they argued, had it been anyone in dire need who might have approached them for fuel, they would have reciprocated by given away petrol in a plastic bottle, justifying it on humane grounds.
Utterly disappointed by the apathy of the young boys working at the Petrol bunk. I went further with the probe by initiating several surveys in different pockets of Hyderabad. Almost all petrol pumps in the heart of the city have young boys dispensing petrol to the commuters, who are totally devoid of the knowledge of the petroleum laws. It is quite evident, how ill-prepared and poorly trained these boys are for the job. Often times they are not under the supervision of the person in charge and left to their own devices.
In the light of the disconcerting incidents that occurred in the past few weeks, it is utterly upsetting to come to terms with the inadequate arrangements at the Petrol bunks of the city. There are no boards educating the commuters and workers alike on the do’s and don’ts, these are lacking sufficient lighting, even the surveillance is gone missing on several pumps.
Rajiv Amaram, joint secretary of the Consortium of Petroleum Dealers for South India, said “keeping in mind recent incidents, the state government had asked the outlets not to sell petrol in bottles or other containers.”
Dr Lubna Sarwat, a prominent social activist stated, “This is enough to show absolute lack of seriousness from the government about public safety especially the safety of women or administrative governance diligence or political will to set right system for non-recurrence of such heinous crimes, especially against women.”
Conscious efforts seeking legal opinion on whether a case should be filed against the employees of a fuel outlet are being pondered upon. Several inspections teams are raiding fuel outlets in Hyderabad and sealing those that are violating the law by handing out petrol in the bottle.
Life is precious, sadly it only takes a few rupees of petrol to kill a person in India. Is this the worth of a life? How low can the system stoop!? Since when have the lawmakers become so insensitive and irresponsible? When will the laws be taken seriously and enforced? These are the hard-hitting questions that will haunt the Government and Law enforcement agencies for a long time.
One should always remember ‘A small leak can sink a great ship.’ Had laws been followed devoutly on all fuel outlets, none of these incidents would have occurred. To make amends for the damage inflicted on the psyche of the relatives of the victims, the government must stop issuing excuses and practice what it preaches.
It should also be known that a few days after Mandal Revenue Officer (MRO) Vijaya Reddy was set on fire and murdered on the outskirts of Hyderabad. In what could have turned out to be a similar instance in the neighbouring state, a couple stormed into the MRO office in Andhra Pradesh, carrying a bottle of petrol, on 13 November. The incident took place in Allagadda in Kurnool district and the couple threatened MRO Siva Ramudu, saying they would burn him alive.
The Government at state and centre should come forward with a slew of reforms that discourage dispensing petrol in plastic bottles, organizing programs that educate commuters and attendants on their duties and responsibility, to quit hiring untrained boys for work at the petrol pumps, training the attendants so that it elevates their preparedness. Regular inspections of petrol bunks. All these measures will usher in a welcome change.
Rafi Adeen is a Contributing Editor for The Rahnuma Daily (theRahnuma.com), the online English daily edition of The Rahnuma-E-Deccan Daily (ReDD), India’s oldest Urdu daily print newspaper. Established in 1921, ReDD is ranked by the INA (Indian Newspaper Association) as among the top five most widely circulated Urdu newspapers in India. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org