Thriving oil syndicate
THE raid conducted at the storehouse of a brick field on Thursday resulting in the seizure of large potable containers and chemicals used as colouring agents could just be the proverbial tip of the iceberg about existence of a flourishing 'oil syndicate' in the state. Taking into account of the black-marketers of petroleum products, mainly petrol and LPG, surfacing in substantial numbers on the streets whenever transportation of essential goods are affected due to bandhs/blockades, coupled with the latest case of transport fuel adulteration, it could be safely concluded that the network of hoarding petrol and adulterating it with substances having combustible properties has reached unprecedented level. Black marketing of petrol on the streets and its availability any time at small kiosks or in front of shut fuel outlets are indications about existence of a well-established supply chain. It is also suspected that the oil syndicates are having a vice-like grip over those who are supposed to regulate, monitor and check unhealthy trade practices of the government controlled item. Possibility of these oil syndicates having connections to the upper echelons of business, politics, IOC and even some unscrupulous elements in the law enforcement department could not be ruled out for the simple reason that such activities involve huge financial windfall. Interestingly, not a single person detained in connection with Thursday’s raid or during similar drives in the past compels one to question the rationale and real intent for the crackdown.
Compared to the global phenomenon of oil mafia/syndicate, the illegal trade in Manipur is largely insignificant. However, failure to put an end to such unethical trade practice has the potential to embolden the syndicate operators to gradually expand their clout and eventually dictate terms on whether the common people could keep their vehicles operational and cause revenue loss to the state exchequer. Seriousness of black-marketing in petroleum products and brutality of the oil mafia could be comprehended from the murder of senior crime journalist Jyotirmoy Dey of the Mumbai-based Mid-day Mirror. CBI investigation into the case of Joytirmoy, who was shot dead in Mumbai in June, 2011 by four persons on two bikes, had linked the murder to Maharashtra's nefarious oil mafia, thus establishing that through various criminal acts, the men behind the racket are no strangers to violence. Ruthlessness of the oil mafia in that western state could also be guessed from the burning alive of additional district collector Yashwant Sonawane and murder of petrol pump owner Mahendra Pratap Singh in 1994, and the September 2010 slaying of one Sayyad Chand Madar, an alleged gang member, in what Maharashtra police believed was the result of a deal by the oil mafia gone wrong. In Manipur’s context, the crackdown against adulteration of transport fuel is so far confined to impounding the plastic containers from women selling petrol on the streets while there has been no instance of launching investigation into the illegal practices to track down those responsible for ensuring plentiful transport fuel even when the IOC depot officially ceases supplying the essential item to the retailers, as had been the norm during protracted siege on the transport routes.