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New LPG Controls

July 12, 2011
I am very pleased with myself for this thorough analysis of corruption and the current regulation in LPG demand/supply markets.  I would like to send it to some magazine like Woman’s Era for publication LOL !!! Because this is a middle-class subject.  And it affects our daily life.
 
 
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ONE MORE CHANNEL FOR CORRUPTION IS SEALED FOREVER – HOPEFULLY.  ONE THAT AFFECTS THE LIVES OF A BILLION PEOPLE.  BUT THEN, WHY DO WE NEED AS A NATION, INSTRUMENTS OF REGULATION TO CONTROL US ALWAYS?  WHY DO WE LACK SUCH A SELF-DISCIPLINE IN EVERYTHING?   SHOULD WE DESIST FROM COMMITTING A CRIME ONLY FOR FEAR OF PENALTY?  CORRUPTION SADLY CONTINUES TO BE SINGLE GREATEST SCOURGE TO AFFLICT INDIA.
 
 
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The new LPG Refill booking method has taken me by surprise.   Its in force for sometime now – but my LPG cylinder lasts me usually for well over 2 months so its a while since i booked mine last time.  Moreover, i wait for 10 days to lapse after switching my second cylinder to place my next booking order as I don’t like the idea of stocking 2 full LPGs in my kitchen anytime.  (Many buildings are now opting for pipeline gas systems but so far we have declined the offer – My sis is using pipeline gas system for almost 10 years now in Mumbai.  Says its most convenient.  She pays the bill online just like for electricity and water).(she says we are fools not to opt for pipeline gas in this advanced age.   my BILs are saying a big ‘no.’)

I called up last evening at my agency closing time to book for a refill.  I was given a call centre number and was asked to speak to a recorded voice by my agency people.   Now for almost everything i am already speaking to recorded voice only – whether its for my broadband Airtel or my water purification system Aqua Guard or for dish TV/Tata Sky whatever.  There is no more human touch to anything.  I press numbers for options, hear a mechanical voice, register as per choices and I get an SMS/e-mail confirmation – whatever the service could be, whether its fault repair or otherwise.
Last thing where i expected to talk to a machine was while  for a re-fill booking of my LPG cylinder.
I booked LPG through a machine for the first time yesterday – but did not register my phone no.   As soon as the machine voice came on, atleast i had the sense to get a pen ready to scribble down the registration no. for re-fill.  I was annoyed at first having been caught off-guard – but now leisurely i reflect, it was bound to happen someday anyway and its high time there is some strict regulation when it comes to LPG demand/supply market conditions.
I was told by the machine, i am allowed only 4 LPG re-fills now every years at the prevailing costs – if i wanted more fuel, from the 5th refill, i will be charged over 800 bucks for a single extra LPG cyclinder.  So thats it.  Maximum no. of refills allowed per customer is now ONLY 4 PER YEAR – to regulate fuel usage.
I called up my agency to double-check this morning and was told, they have got their refill confirmation order for me via the central supplier (Indane in my case – Indane is the brand name of IOC (Indian Oil Corporation)).
So what is the reason for the new LPG refill booking regulations?  Why should LPG refill bookings/supply be centralized like this after all these years?  If you analyse deep, its because, the middlemen/agencies are over booking from the govt suppliers like Indane (IOC or HP or BP or whatever the company is) and selling the LPG cylinders at astronomical costs for commercial users.  There are even cases where these LPG cylinders are used in CNG cars.   Which is thoroughly illegal and also dangerous business.
The last regulation for LPG connection came when i had to get my ration card stamped in my agency mentioning I have 2 cylinders at home.   I had to take my LPG regulator to my agency office, where an official checked the number and did the chapa with the regulator number in my ration card.  ONLY ONE LPG REGULATOR/CYLINDER CONNECTION IS ALLOWED EVER SINCE PER RATION CARD. The chapa is to ensure, i don’t get any more LPG connections/cylinders.   I had earlier applied for an extra (2nd) cylinder in the same connection.  Only one connection is now legal.  But double cylinders for the single connection are allowed.
So at that time,whoever had a second LPG connection had to get the second one cancelled as the ration card allowed only one chapa for one connection.  And only one member in a family (in the ration card) could possess an LPG connection.  In case 2 members in a family had 2 LPG connections until then, one had to forego a connection and retain only one for the family.  LPG consumption is calculated NOT ON INDIVIDUAL BASIS BUT ON FAMILY BASIS.   Very clever.  Why our govt is not using these brains for productive purposes?  India will be NO.1 country in the world if our Netas start thinking so smart in all matters!
Thank god, my second cylinder was under the same single LPG connection so it was spared. The connection is in my name.  And there is none in my husband’s name.  Soon as i returned from Malaysia, i followed up and acquired a new ration card for just 3 of us – me, my H and my son.   My BIL’s  family was still listed in the same old joint family ration card – and as the new regulations allowed only one chapa per card, it gave rise to some family issues.  I also applied for Voters’ ID, PAN cards, everything on war-footing basis.   Nothing is organized in India – and such a trivial matter is made very complicated.  Why can’t we streamline basic things like this in our society?  Harassment is waiting for you in every corner when after all what you try to do is, get yourself equipped with bare minimum necessities for survival like the Ration Card, the Voters’ ID,
90% all second LPG connections in a single name  also were thus made null and void in a single stroke at that time (must be 7-8 years back).
As a further step, i was given a stamp book.  I was asked not to sign in my receipt slip but to stick a govt issued Indane stamp in the receipt to the delivery man whenever my refill came through.   This was to ensure, the LPGs meant for domestic purposes were not misused for commercial purposes.
Illegal business in LPG still continued despite all these regulations.  I have seen the agency boys deliver LPG refill cylinders to small restaurants and bakeries – the ones meant for domestic consumption – at far higher rates.
The final noose is now in place around the neck of  the Agency men and the delivery boys WITH NEW LPG REFILL BOOKING REGISTRATIONS NOW MOVED TO IOC CALL CENTRES – now there is nowhere they can turn to,.  IOC now gives the Indane agencies their refill customer details !  How is this.  Direct orders !  SO NO MORE CONTACT WITH LPG AGENCY PEOPLE !  Its good to be dealing with IOC straight away honestly !
If you ask me, the agency guys and delivery boys  have got themselves into this situation – in fact i like this new system.  This is a highly regulated system and the scope for cheating/frauds is almost  ZERO (well hope so).
An astronomical charge of 800 bucks for your 5th refill booking in an year is utility/consumption based – priced just like electricity/water charges.   The more you consume, the higher the surcharges, as it means you are economically in a position to consume more.  The 4 cylinder slab pricing is ok – but i think it can be relaxed to 6. Why should we complain when we are so adapted to slab-pricing of electricity already?  From your 300th unit of consumption, slabs exist for every 100 units of electricity consumption in our states.
Lets see how this works out.  This is one real good means to control corruption in LPG demand/supply markets.  The actual and optimal consumers stand to benefit maximum with this – even if i am slightly put off talking to one more machine recorded voice for my refills from now on.
Note:  From now on, the licenced LPG Supply Agencies will be getting ONLY BOOKING ORDER LPG REFILL CYLINDERS FROM IOC/INDANE.  NO CYLINDER EXTRA.   Already, the discrepancies between their past demand levels and the current regulated levels will be reflecting the scale of corruption prevalent so far in the LPG demand/supply markets.   The digital booking/supply should have been adopted much earlier – but better late than never.
High pricing from the 5th cylinder will force families NOT TO WASTE FUEL.    Why not induction gas stoves?  They are cheap and best and pollution-free.
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My question is, why is this country like this?  Whether it is about paying taxes or LPG refill booking, why should anyone try to cheat the customers and mint money?  Only when we misuse given facilities, they are either withdrawn or rules and regulations are tightened.  For me, personally, 4 refills per year are enough.  Even if i require a dozen extra refills, i can still afford them at a himalayan cost of 800 bucks per LPG cylinder.  But what about lower middle class families?   They cook and eat at home a lot and have to have refills almost every month. How can they afford to spend so much on cooking fuel alone?
Because of mindless frauds committed by conniving LPG refill supply agencies and their delivery boys, its the common man in the street who will get to suffer.
 
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The Family Ration Card’s new avatar:  Computerized/digitalised now for last 10 years, with photo of the family head in front page – this is a much better version.   As no manual information is added, its easy to procure a lost card or to transfer one.  I don’t use mine – i let my part-time maid use my card.
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