Thursday, 1 December 2011

Bulls having a bad day in oil marketing firms too

IOC, BPCL, HPCL using bullocks to transport kerosene miffs animal rights group. Bulls are down and out — not only in the stock markets, but also in oil marketing companies. Or, so thinks the PETA (People for Ethical Treatment of Animals).

The rights organisation has filed a public interest litigation in the Bombay High Court against against three oil marketing companies. The PIL seeks to stop IndianOil Corporation (IOC), Bharat Petroleum Corporation (BPCL) and Hindustan Petroleum Corporation (HPCL) from using bullock-carts to transport kerosene from their respective depots to different rationing shops.

“These are Fortune 500 listed oil companies. Despite having other resources, they still use bulls to transport kerosene,” says Manilal Valliyate, director of veterinary affairs, Peta India.

Number of 
Bullock carts
of bullocks 
IOCL 164 52 268
HPCL 197 8 213
Total 464   524
Source: Controller and Rationing, Ministry of Food and Civil Supplies
He notes that most bullocks that are forced to pull kerosene carts are injured or lame; they struggle to pull “extremely heavy loads” through heavy traffic in Mumbai. “Many suffer from acute or chronic arthritis and intestinal problems such as diarrhoea and impaction. None of these companies has taken any step to stop this practice.”

Valliyate argues that no safety measures have been taken to prevent fires, explosions and other accidents while transporting kerosene on bullock carts. These oil companies use a pair of bullocks to transfer 1,000 litres of kerosene and one bullock to transfer 500 litres of the fuel.

There are 464 bullock carts which use around 524 bullocks to transport kerosene for IOCL, HPCL and BPCL, instead of opting for non-animal methods, he adds. An email sent to IOC and HPCL remained unanswered. BPCL declined to comment on the issue since a PIL has been filed.

An oil company official, on the condition of anonymity, explained the bullocks were being used to transport kerosene to rationing shops that are located in “very narrow lanes and bylanes” which cannot accommodate any other mode of transport. “Also, it is a means of livelihood to the bullock-cart owners,” he told Business Standard. “We have to consider these before we decide to stop using bullock-carts.”

Peta says that the Ministry of Food and Civil Supplies of Maharashtra had, in 2008, decided to phase out the use of bullock carts to transport kerosene in Mumbai by 31 March 2009 — and replace carts with suitable mechanised transport. Till date, the ministry has failed to phase out bullock carts.

The Maharashtra government has issued a notification under the state’s Keeping and Movement of Cattle in Urban Areas (Control) Act, 1976, prohibiting the keeping and movement of cattle in the entire area of Mumbai City and Mumbai Suburban District. It came into effect on 1 July 2006 based on public interest.

Even so, animals that are used to transport kerosene are kept in pathetic conditions, argues Valliyate. “They are treated in ways that are in violation of India’s Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960.” he argues.

Peta says it will plead in the court to issue directives to oil companies to immediately stop supplying kerosene to bullock carts and support the Ministry of Food and Civil Supplies to effectively implement the ban on bullock-carts by contributing to the changeover to mechanised transport.

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