Weight and watch

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  • Published 16.06.08

After having effected a steep hike of Rs 50 on every cylinder of liquefied petroleum gas, the least that the Union government can do is to ensure that consumers are not cheated on the quantity of cooking gas that they buy. It can do this by instructing the oil companies to ensure that each cylinder is weighed at the consumer’s doorstep by using weighing machines that are properly verified and authenticated. And this should be done voluntarily by those delivering the cylinder, without waiting for the consumer to ask for it.

State governments can ensure that consumers are not cheated on the quantity of cooking gas that they buy by stepping up checks on (a) the bottling plants of oil companies and (b) godowns of LPG distributors. They should also check the refills being transported for delivery to the end consumer. This way, the government can ensure that consumers get the 14.2 kg of cooking gas that they pay for.

A cylinder can be under-filled at the bottling plant. Or there could be pilferage of gas during transportation from the bottling plant to the distributor or from the distributor to the customer. In fact in 2005, the department of weights and measures, Delhi government, had slapped a Rs 90,000 fine on an oil company. Raids by the department on two bottling plants of Indian Oil corporation — one at Tikri Kalan and the other at Madanpur Khadar — had shown large scale violation of the law governing weights and measures. While at the first bottling plant, 25 per cent of the cylinders were found to be underweight, at the second, 50 per cent were found to be weighing less than the declared 14.2 kg. The shortage ranged from one to 3.2 kg.

In response to a complaint filed by a Rourkela-based consumer group — Consumer Protection Council — some years ago on a similar issue, the apex consumer court had directed oil companies to not only ensure accurate filling of the gas, but also provide for doorstep weighing of the cylinder at the time of delivery. Yet, even today, not every deliveryman carries a weighing machine. Even when it is carried, they try to avoid weighing the cylinder and do so only when consumers insist. Surely, the distributors can inform the consumers about the weighing machine when they book the refill? The cash receipt can also carry that information for the consumer.

It’s time the government, the oil companies and the LPG distributors took responsibility to ensure that consumers are not cheated on quantity when they buy LPG.