Rajendra Kaswa, for whom police launched a manhunt three days ago, had no licence to store or sell the explosives that took at least 89 lives in Jhabua district’s Petlawad on Saturday.
All the 52-year-old had was a ‘Shot Firer’s Certificate’ that allows the holder to undertake blasting work in connection with well sinking, road construction and agricultural work, among other things.
The holder of this certificate is not authorised to store even one gram of explosives, let alone the large quantities of explosives that Kaswa illegally stored in his small shop along with fertilisers. The certificate was revalidated on March 16 for five years.
The certificate holder is attached to a licensed magazine, from where the explosives are sourced and used the same day for the purpose specified. Both the certificate and the magazine license are issued by the Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisation, a short-staffed central government body that functions under the Ministry of Commerce and Industry.
Bhopal-based Deputy Chief Controller of Explosives M K Jhala told The Indian Express that Kaswa possessed the shot firer’s certificate and was not authorised to store explosives. He said he was not aware if the other two Kaswa brothers, Narendra and Foolchand, hold such certificates.
There are 2,000 such certificate holders in Madhya Pradesh alone. Only two of the 500 magazine licences in the state are located in Petlawad and neither belongs to the Kaswas, who have been in this business for decades.
Unlike the magazine license, for which strict rules exist on paper, getting the certificate is easy. All it requires is an NOC from the local police station, identity proof and a physical fitness certificate. “It does not require any special qualification. My certificate was revalidated after paying the Rs 800 fee,” Jamnalal Patidar, one such certificate holder who lives in a nearby village, said.