Millennium Post

Govt stumbles on ammonium nitrate

India’s major cities, Mumbai, New Delhi and Pune, have been subject to many terrorist blasts in recent years but government rules on ammonium nitrate shockingly continue to leave loopholes that can be exploited easily by anti-national elements.

This opinion is being repeatedly voiced by security experts but it remains tetherless in the face of apparent government apathy. The question to be raised at this time is: What is the Home Ministry doing for national security? On the one hand, it attempts to put in a variety of bodies like the NSA into place but on the other hand it turns a blind eye to rules that clearly permit dangerous chemicals like imported ammonium nitrate to fall into the hands of the terrorists.

A close examination of the AN rules reveals that the government is leaving loopholes, perhaps with clear vested interests at play that compromise the basic function of the rules themselves. The Rules permit the import of ammonium nitrate in a ‘preferably’ bagged form. Preferably is a word that does not have place in any legal lexicon and is akin to saying, ‘Oh, it’s okay… I’d prefer someone didn’t commit murder but if he did its okay”. This is nonsense. Rules have to be unambiguous.

No importer brings ammonium nitrate into the country in sealed bags simply because it is commercially cheaper to bring it loose and then bag it in India. The circumstances in which ammonium nitrate is imported into the country and then bagged at ports and at warehouses close to the port are dangerous. Spillage is frequent and theft is easy. Losses, which incidentally are condoned to the extent of one per cent, are frequent. Shipped cargo in the loose form that ammonium nitrate is imported, its weight is calculated according to the volumetric space it occupies, so weights are never precise in the first place. And that is all the more reasons why product losses are easy to justify.

They should not be! Ambiguity in the law must not exist. One kilogram of ammonium nitrate can cause a blast that has a radius of a kilometre with death tolls in numbers too large to contemplate. The word ‘preferably’ in the ammonium nitrate rules must go. The security of India must not be compromised.
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