Many shops in Bangalore fail acid test

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BANGALORE: A day after the Supreme Court pulled up states for allowing open sale of acid, TOI does a reality check on the regulations in place. There seemed to be none. This TOI reporter bought 100 ml acid for just Rs 30 from BVK Iyengar Road. Other than seeking the reason for purchase, no questions were asked and no proof sought when the reporter claimed to be a student buying acid for research.

The clear, colourless oily liquid which has extreme corrosive properties and has led to thousands of acid attacks is easily available on the footpaths of BVK Iyengar Road. And it costs only Rs 30 for 100 ml. If you buy in bulk, it’s even cheaper.

This reporter first went to a chemical shop on JC Road to buy acid. The proprietor asked for the student ID card and refused to sell in the absence of one. “Madam, you might use it for a valid purpose. But we must procure an authorization from your college for buying the acid. We have to write down the tin number in our register. Get the letter and you can buy the acid,” said a chemist at the shop. Sulphuric acid of 500 ml was available here for Rs 240.

Next, the hunt was on BVK Iyengar road. There are several ‘acid’ shops that sell the solvents, acids and other chemicals on the footpath for cheaper prices.

A wholesale dealer offered to give a can of sulphuric acid, but not in retail. “If you want you need to pay Rs 100 for 500 ml. You might get it cheaper down this lane. If you don’t, come back here,” said the shop owner. He further said, “Buy 500 ml, use as much as you want and throw the rest in any drainage!”

Yet another utensils’ trader offered to sell 100 ml of the acid he had kept for cleaning old vessels. “I have no container to give you the acid. Get a glass bottle and you can buy it from me,” he said.

The next dealer TOI met was an expert in the business. Though he first asked what it was required for, he finally agreed to give. “Please use it only for your lab purpose and not anything else. If used carelessly it can lead to tragedies. We don’t give to everyone who asks, because we have heard of enough acid attack tragedies,” said the 30-year-old trader who walked up to one of 16 blue-coloured cans kept in a line on the footpath and transferred some of the contents into a small bottle. The acid spilled on his fingers, but he said he was used to such burns. None of the cans carried the label of the chemical. But the shop keeper had no confusions where what was kept.

“We deal with these deadly chemicals every day and this is my business. It has many uses, but some miscreants misuse it. I hope you don’t,” said the vendor, who claimed to sell concentrated hydrochloric acid, nitric acid and even cyanide.

What was shocking was that most of the traders who sold these deadly chemicals did not have any licence displayed in public.

Uses of sulphuric acid

As sulphuric acid can remove oxides from metals, it is largely used by traders who sell vessels and goldsmiths. Besides, it has industrial use, in making fertilizers, batteries, dyes, in refineries, as a dehydrant and so on.

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