Shifting of Oil Depot from Jammu Rly Station not Govt’s priority

Many residential houses and buildings have come up around Oil Depot near Jammu Railway Station. -Excelsior/Rakesh
Many residential houses and buildings have come up around Oil Depot near Jammu Railway Station. -Excelsior/Rakesh

Jammu city sitting on ‘fireball’
Gopal Sharma
JAMMU, Sept 24: Jammu City is virtually sitting on ‘fireball’ as any mishap in the Oil Depot, near Jammu Railway Station, may lead to a major catastrophe in Gandhi Nagar constituency of Jammu south.
Taking no lessons from IED blast in a petrol tanker, just closer to the main gate of Oil Depot at Jammu Railway Station in which seven persons were injured during 2003 and the Jaipur Oil Depot incident few years ago, where fire could not be controlled even after 10 days, the J&K State authorities are still dragging feet on the most important proposal of shifting Jammu Railway Station Oil Depot of Hindustan Petroleum, Bharat Petroleum and Indian Oil Companies to some safer place away from Jammu.
Though this highly sensitive proposal is connected with the lives and safety of lakhs of people of Jammu Railway Station area, Trikuta Nagar, Gandhi Nagar, Nanak Nagar, Preet Nagar, Shastri Nagar, Lower Channi Himmat, Chhanni Rama and many other localities of Jammu south, yet it seems to be no priority of the State Government.
In case of any mishap, lakhs of litres of petrol and diesel stored in the huge depot tanks may flow down in minutes and cause major devastation in the low lying areas as these large tanks of the depot have been raised on the sloppy land just hardly 300 meters away from Jammu Railway Station.
Sources said that this proposal of shifting the Oil depot was floated about two decades back during the Dr Farooq Abdullah Government and a site was selected near Vijaypur in district Samba. The area was also closer to the Railway line and Devak river but due to some objection raised by the Army authorities over firing range and the opposition by the local legislator from Vijaypur, the proposal could not be matured. For many years again, the issue remained lying in the `cold storage’.
The sources further revealed that during 2003, a major catastrophe was averted as some terrorists had planted an IED in an Oil Tanker which came from Kashmir after unloading petrol. Luckily, the IED exploded near the gate of Oil depot, where several persons were injured. Had the explosion been taken place near the depot tank, it could have resulted in a major tragedy. After this incident, the State authorities expedited the process of shifting but again due to some obstacles, the proposal remained moving on snails pace.
About eight years ago, another most suitable site of acquiring nearly 960 kanals of Forest and State land near Bajalta was selected by the District Revenue authorities Jammu for the oil depot. The Oil Companies representatives also visited the site besides officers from CAPD. They also found it most suitable because Jammu-Udhampur Railway Line is also closer and on the other side river Tawi. But even after this, no much progress could be witnessed in the proposal till today.
Divisional Commissioner, Jammu, Sanjeev Verma said a land measuring nearly 1000 kanals has been identified near Bajalta for this purpose. Deputy Commissioner, Jammu has sent the proposal to the Administrative department (Revenue) and the clearance is yet awaited. The Administrative Department had raised some queries and the same stand replied during the time of Pawan Kotwal as Divisional Commissioner Jammu. He admitted that shifted of this depot is necessary for the safety of the local public as many residential houses have come up near the present Oil depot.
Director, Food, Civil Supplies and Consumer Affairs, Jammu, Amit Sharma when contacted said that shifting of Oil Depot from Jammu Railway Station area to some safer place is very important. He said many residential colonies have come up around this depot during past two decades. It is major security risk and threat to the lives of people living in low lying areas like Trikuta Nagar, Gandhi Nagar, Nanak Nagar, Shastri Nagar and adjoining Defence installations.
Replying to a question, the Director said recently a meeting in this connection was held which was attended by Deputy Commissioner Jammu, AC Revenue, ADC, representatives from three major Oil Companies, some officials from concerned departments. Discussion with regard to shifting of Oil depot to Bajalta took place. He said Revenue authorities have to provide the land. As and when they hand over the land to CAPD authorities, the process of setting up of new depot will be started. He said that there is need to dislocate 3-4 private families at Bajalta for main passage to the site for which companies would compensate them.
Deputy Commissioner, Jammu Ramesh Kumar, however, claimed that proposal regarding acquiring land at Bajalta for Oil Depot stand forwarded to the Revenue Secretary and the green nod from higher authorities is yet awaited. When asked about the long delay in land acquisition, he said, ” It is at the higher level, I will not be able to comment on that. The proposal had also been sent some years back before his joining here as DC Jammu. As and when the clearance is received from the Administrative Department, the land will be handed over to the nodal agency (CAPD),” the DC added.
The J&K Petroleum Dealers Association, Anan Sharma on being contacted said that the Association took up the issue with the State Government several times. Even the matter was thoroughly discussed with the then Divisional Commissioner Jammu, Dr Pawan Kotwal about three years ago. He had given assurance to expedite work. But after his transfer the matter was put in the cold storage by the authorities at the helm of affairs.
He alleged that new site has been identified at Bajalta but it has been learnt that local legislator was creating hurdles in the process and moreover, a few families are also reluctant to vacate land although, Govt has offered good compensation. He said it is surprising to note that for Ring Road Jammu, the land acquisition process was completed within a few years, but this important proposal which is connected with the safety and security of lakhs of people of Jammu is gathering dust in the Govt cupboards and is being dragged by the people at the helm of affairs for the last more than a decade. For shifting of Srinagar Oil depot to other location, the process started just few years ago. The land acquisition was completed in record time and now the work has also been started there but this Jammu project seems to be no one’s priority. Even the Jammu Ministers and legislators failed to exert pressure and get the proposal cleared during last three years, Sharma added.