HYDERABAD: It is around 10.30 am. Several automobile garages and repair sheds in Mallapur, near Cherlapally, are abuzz with regular works. Soon, oil tankers start arriving one after the other in the locality and stop at various garages. The gates are closed immediately and a few persons stand guard outside. The moment they see a stranger, an alert is sent inside and regular repair works seem to be taking place.
Between 10.30 am and 3 pm, close to a hundred such tankers were seen moving towards various garages in the Mallapur area and returning. Oil tankers, each of 20,000 to 25,000 kilo-litres capacity, are brought straight from petroleum companies's filling stations to these sheds.
The experts here remove a certain seal at the tanker's bottom and pilfer fuel. There are three partitions in the tanker, two of them are usually filled with petrol. It is a seal on this pipe connecting these partitions that the expert will heat and break. The same seal is welded back after siphoning out as much as 80 to 100 litres of fuel illegally. It is shifted into small containers, each of of 15 or 20 litres capacity, and then taken out in trolley-autorickshaws. The same is then sold to small-time vendors who sell petrol and diesel in one litre bottles on the roadside, especially in rural areas.
Illegal pilferage of petrol and diesel continues unabated on the city outskirts even two months after two fuel tankers exploded killing one person and leaving six persons injured in Chengicherla. Express visited Mallapur, near Cherlapally, which like Chengicherla, falls under the jurisdiction of Malkajgiri zone of Rachakonda police, and found several illegal fuel pilferage units operating in the guise of automobile garages and repair sheds.
This has been the modus operandi for years now. After the Chengicherla tanker explosion, Medipally police investigated the matter and arrested one person from the locality.
Oil tanker drivers generally sell the stolen fuel at half the market price to brokers at garages. This fuel is then sold to roadside vendors on a profit ranging between Rs 10 and 15. Sometimes, construction companies too buy fuel in bulk from brokers for their vehicles. It is understood that about 900 to 1,100 fuel tankers come out of oil companies in Cherlapally area everyday.
Malkajgiri DCP Ch R Umamaheswara Sarma, when contacted, said that meetings were held with oil companies and tanker drivers association in the wake of the Chengicherla oil tanker blast. The blast had taken place during illegal pilferage of oil from a tanker in January. "Notices were issued to companies. We asked the companies to instal GPS tracking system on fuel tankers to check diversion of fuel," he said, adding that police could identify only one such illegal pilferage unit in Chengicherla and the owner was arrested and remanded. "We will inspect all garages in and around Cherlapally. If we find anyone indulging in fuel pilferage, we will surely take action," he added.
With regard to GPS installation, MS Raju, general manager (planning & coordination) for Telangana and Andhra Pradesh of Indian Oil Corporation Ltd, said that a proposal in that regard was pending with higher-ups and a decision had to be taken at the top level. He said tanker drivers usually do not let petrol pump dealers to measure the quantity of fuel as they pretend to be in a hurry. "With the help of dip rod, one can find out if the tanker has the entire quantity of fuel or not. Also, it takes a while for the fuel to stabilise after travelling for long distances," he said.
Acknowledging the existence of certain problems, he explained that often the driver, licensed to drive a hazardous vehicle, hands over the vehicle to another driver who possesses merely a heavy vehicle driving licence. It is he who takes the vehicle to the automobile repair unit that doubles up as a pilferage unit.