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Burn bid at Murli meet

New Delhi, Dec. 20: A sealed petrol pump almost flared into a fireball in Murli Deora’s face today as a woman tried to set herself ablaze in front of the dais where he was addressing a news conference.

Lakshmi Devi doused herself in petrol in full glare of TV cameras as the petroleum minister’s media meet was winding up this afternoon, but was fortunately overpowered by security officials before she could light a matchstick.

Sister of Kargil martyr Harinder Singh, Lakshmi was protesting against the sealing of a petrol pump near Agra owned by her family. The pump was allotted in recognition of the services of her soldier brother to the nation.

Lakshmi, who police said was 35, is believed to have met Deora seven times and pleaded that the cancellation of the pump licence be revoked. The outlet was sealed after a raid revealed that adulterated fuel was being sold there.

Although the minister promised something would be done soon, nothing had moved yet, Lakshmi said. So, she had been forced to draw his attention to her plight as the family home in Aligarh was in threat of being auctioned off by a bank.

A stunned Deora said he had met her several times. He said action was being taken to probe Lakshmi’s complaint that the adulteration racket was headed by one H.P. Singh, who was appointed as a “manager” in 2005.

Once the family discovered the goings-on and decided to sack him, he had allegedly colluded with Indian Oil Corporation officials to get the pump raided and sealed, Lakshmi claimed.

A red-faced petroleum ministry this evening issued a letter to IOC to review the sealing of the pump. It confirmed the outlet had been shut as it was selling adulterated fuel.

Deora has noted that the pump allottee’s wife and mother had conceded they allowed “benami” operation of the outlet by H.P. Singh.

He said the matter of IOC officials colluding with unscrupulous elements needed to be looked into.

The case has been referred to the CBI. IOC has been asked to “explore the need for restoration of this particular dealership as per the permissible policy and rules”.

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