The Railway Protection Force (RPF) seized a consignment of 28 undeclared cylinders, containing highly inflammable gas, on Thursday, on the Chennai-bound Coromandel Express, at Howrah Station. The transport of such cylinders is banned in India for safety reasons.
The foreign-made cylinders, weighing around 13.6 kg each, posed an added security risk in the sweltering summer heat.
The gas they contained is used in its compressed state in refrigerators and air-conditioners. Indiscriminate use of the gas is one of the leading causes behind the formation of the hole in the ozone layer, leading to global warming.
Of the 28 cylinders, 18 were from Japan, while the rest were Chinese. The thin walls make the gas prone to explode if exposed to extreme heat.
Babloo and Shankar of 35, Strand Road are the licensed porters with Howrah railway station who have been arrested for booking the consignment. They claim they knew nothing of the racket, saying they had each been paid Rs 100 to ensure the safe booking and loading of the consignment. They could not give any information about who had paid them for the deal.
The RPF has not ruled out the involvement of international smugglers, as this illegal trade has been carrying on for some time. “This is the second consignment we have seized in a month,” claimed an RPF official. The foreign-made cylinders are cheaper than their Indian equivalents.
Senior officials of the RPF suspect local criminals and porters to be involved in the illegal trade, that has been traced to Bangladesh.
Dealers in these kinds of gas cylinders are required to be licensed under the Gas Cylinder Rule of 1981 and the Explosives Act of 1884. The seized consignment is in state custody, pending further investigation.
Jewel thief: A youth was arrested from Bihar on Friday for stealing jewellery worth Rs 10 lakh from a departmental store in Baguiati. Pintoo Shah, 17, was a labourer in the store, police said. Two weeks ago, he stole the jewellery and fled. On a complaint lodged by the shop-owners, the police trailed the youth to his home in Bihar. The jewellery has been recovered.