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Kerosene cure for fare limbo

A man pours kerosene into the fuel tank of a bus in Purulia in September. Picture by Mita Roy

Purulia, Oct. 29: Many private bus owners in Purulia have started using kerosene instead of diesel even at the risk of causing pollution and damage to their vehicles at a time the state government has refused to revise fares despite a hike in the fuel price last month.

The kerosene, which 200 of the district’s 300 private buses are using, is bought from the black market at half the price of diesel, a vehicle owner said.

“The cost of diesel in Purulia is Rs 51.50 a litre (after the September 14 price hike), while that of kerosene in the black market is between Rs 27 and Rs 30 a litre,” said a bus owner. “Some bus owners used to run their vehicles on kerosene earlier, but after the latest hike in diesel price, as many as 200 of the district’s private buses are using kerosene,” he added.

Another bus owner said: “If we choose to use kerosene (60 litres on average a day), we save between Rs 800 and Rs 900 a day.”

Indrajit Basu, the executive director of Indian Oil Corporation in Calcutta, highlighted the environmental hazards of running vehicles on kerosene. “Kerosene is between petrol and diesel in the refinery chain of crude oil products. It can be used in a diesel engine. Kerosene is a middle distillate, which means it is a less refined fuel when it comes to weight and viscosity.”

He added that “kerosene is much thinner and has low lubricating properties that can harm the engine over time or damage the fuel injector pump. Automotive oil has to be added to kerosene for temporary lubrication.”

Basu said smoke emission from kerosene was much higher than from petrol and diesel. “So kerosene causes more pollution.”

“Vendors” with jerry cans filled with the kerosene are at hand at the Purulia bus stand to supply the drivers.

A bus owner, who did not want to be named, said: “Even after paying for the pollution certificate and incurring costs of cleaning the injector pump every two months, we save on operation costs if we use kerosene.”

“If we don’t use kerosene, we will have to sell our vehicles to scrap dealers and buses in the district will come to a halt,” said bus owner Nasim Khan. “I have already sold two of my buses.”

Additional district magistrate (general) Hrishikesh Mudi said the kerosene distribution points were being watched. “We are also investigating how pollution certificates are being issued to buses running on kerosene. Those caught using kerosene will be punished,” he said.