On the instruction of oil companies, gas agencies had asked consumers to submit Know Your Customer (KYC) forms stating that they have only one cooking gas connection in their name. However, there seems to be low public awareness about it. Can you explain what the KYC form is about?
Many consumers have more than one LPG connection in their name. If such consumers do not submit the KYC forms, their connection might be completely blocked as per the directive of the Union ministry of petroleum and natural gas. A single family living in the same house cannot have different connections in the names of different members. If they do, they must declare that they are living separately at the same address. For, one kitchen essentially means one household. One also cannot have connections from various oil companies. We are conducting physical verification to match the information furnished in the forms.
Many people live in joint families. Their LPG requirement is bound to be higher. But they will have to make do with just six subsidised cylinders a year. How is the ban on multiple connections justified in the case of joint families?
Many people have told us about this problem during informal discussions. All state governments are also referring that to the ministry that may come up with new guidelines in future for special cases. But as of now, one kitchen means a single household.
How many consumers in the state have multiple or illegal gas connections?
Overall, there are around 20 lakh consumers, who have connections from various oil companies. We have, so far, identified 15 to 20 per cent of them with multiple connections. But I am not saying they are illegal. They are on the suspected list because they might have provided incomplete addresses, or have more than one connection at the same address. So, the KYC forms are for them to prove that they are not doing anything suspicious.
The spiralling cost of cooking gas cylinders has affected the common man’s kitchen budget. How does one carry on with this burden? It has also become difficult to find alternatives such as firewood and charcoal.
Well, BPL families may face problems. But all oil companies are guided by norms of the ministry of petroleum and natural gas. We have to implement them and give our feedback. Though there is a cap on subsidised cylinders at six a year, one can buy domestic non-subsidised ones. That is always available if firewood and charcoal aren’t.
But it isn’t so much about availability as it is about affordability. Don’t you agree?
Well, BPL families… yes, they may face problems.
Can you shed some light on the IVR system for hassle-free booking of gas cylinder?
Consumers in Bhubaneswar and Cuttack can dial 9090824365 to book a cylinder. It is a menu-based system. You need to provide the number of your gas agency along with the STD code of your city followed by your consumer number and mobile number. Once you book it, a cash memo number will be generated and you will get a text message that the cylinder will be delivered to you shortly. If it isn’t delivered and you get a message saying it has, you must register a complaint on 155233.
Will this service be extended to other parts of the state as well?
Yes, we are planning to include six more places — Rourkela, Puri, Sambalpur, Berhampur, Jharsuguda and Balasore. It should be done in the next three to four months.
People complain that new connections are not delivered within 24 to 48 hours as promised. Why?
It is not a false commitment. The distributor has to physically verify the details furnished in the application for a new connection. That may take three to four days. Then the confirmation of connection goes through post, which also takes some time. Normally, it takes 12 to 15 days. When we say we will provide connection immediately, it means after following all these procedures. And when you book a refill, we try our best to release it within two to three days.
People often allege that the cylinders delivered to them weigh less than the prescribed 14.2kg. How common is this phenomenon?
Surprise checks are conducted by weights and measures officials at our bottling plant. It was recently done in Balasore and all our cylinders were found alright and they certified them. All consumers must also insist on getting their cylinders weighed upon delivery. If it is any less than 14.2kg, they can lodge a complaint on 155233. We also conduct random checks to prevent black marketing.
How has the demand for petroleum products increased in Odisha?
The annual requirement is four million tonne. Normally, we consider around 5-6 per cent growth per year. But it has not happened in 2012-13. We are going on the negative side because several mines have closed down. Many industries such as Vedanta Alumina and Visa Steel are sometimes closed and, hence, not operating at full capacity. But it is a temporary phenomenon.
Many petrol filling stations fake fuel shortage anticipating price rise. How are you dealing with this kind of hoarding?
It has come to my notice only once during the one-and-a-half years. These days, the price hike is announced by the evening. Pump owners might have a tendency to not use all fuel nozzles or suspend sale till after midnight when the hike becomes effective. So, along with government agencies, we take special care to ensure that no retail outlet stops sale. Violations are dealt with seriously.
Pranab Kumar Das, 53, is the general manager of Indian Oil Corporation Limited and state-level co-ordinator for oil industries in Odisha
Born and brought up in Dhanbad, Das completed his intermediate studies in
science from St Xavier’s College, Ranchi
He then went on to complete engineering at the Regional Engineering College (now National Institute of Technlogy) in Durgapur, Bengal, after which he pursued a master’s degree in machine design from IIT-Kharagpur
He then joined Indian Oil Corporation Ltd in Haldia in 1983 as operations officer
Five years later, he shifted to Balasore as depot manager
After this he shifted to his hometown, Dhanbad, as senior depot manager
He has served in several senior positions in the company in Durgapur and Bhopal before working at the Indian Oil headquarters in Mumbai for almost a decade
There he was the head of logistics and handled various key responsibilities
He took over as the general manager of the Odisha unit last year
What would you have been had you not been an engineer?
I wanted to become an engineer since childhood. I was attracted towards that field because of the influence of the people I grew up around. There were 5-6 college students in my locality, who had made it to top notch engineering institutes of the country. They were like heroes at that time and I used to go around telling people that I would also become an engineer. After completing my master’s degree, I did not have a job and was thinking of becoming a lecturer. But in two months, I got an offer from Indian Oil and my plans of becoming a lecturer never took flight.