Consumer Protection Council, Rourkela
In response to the initiatives of Consumer Protection Council, Rourkela, which revealed the under weighment of "Indane" refills supplied to the consumers of the Rourkela Steel Township, IOC (Indian Oil Corporation Ltd.) officers at Bhubaneswar repeatedly requested its Secretary to visit their bottling plant at Balasore, Orissa, which is incidentally meeting the requirements of the consumers of Rourkela as well. Accordingly the Secretary of the Council visited the LPG bottling plant at Balasore recently, along with IOC officers. After carefully seeing the facilities installed and after observing the series of operation one can certainly conclude as to why IOC is not able to supply the "Indane" refills with appropriate quantity of LPG (14.2 Kg.).
The Carousel Machine which is used for filling the empty cylinders has 24 platforms to hold and fill 24 cylinders simultaneously. The machine keeps moving in a circular motion and the operator is required to adjust the tare weight of the refill on the gauge provided on the machine by rotating a knob. It may be noted that the variation in the tare weight of the refills (empty cylinders) could be as much as 2.5 Kg. (say, from 14.8 Kg. to 17.3 Kg.). In effect the operator is required to rotate the knob to set the tare weight, within a span of 2.5 seconds to be ble to cope up with the speed of the rotating machine.
This process of setting the tare weight is obviously prone for human error
In the Carousel Mahine if the tare weight is not set correctly, then the refill could take more or less LPG depending on whether the error in setting was positive or negative. Hence after the Carousel Machine, the filled cylinders are individually tested in an on-line electronic weighing machine. Here again the process is done manually. The operator has to note the weight printed on the refill and cross check with the digital display of the weighing machine, when the refill is selected for weighment. In this machine the no load reading is set as -14.2 Kg. so that when the refill is weighed it displays the weight of the empty refill (tare weight). Whenever the variation is beyond acceptable levels the operator instructs his colleague standing near by to divert it for weight adjustment. Then the third operator diverts the cylinder for weight adjustment. The whole process has to be completed within 2.5 seconds so that there is no hold up in the line.
The whole process of filling and checking the weighment which consists of different manual operations and involves as many as 4 operators, is inherently error prone and cannot ensure appropriate quantity to the consumers. As a matter of fact, when the Secretary of the Council got 6 of the refills checked in the on-line weighing machine, in presence of the officers of the IOC, as many as three under-weighed between 0.5 Kg. to 1 Kg.
The totally human oriented LPG filling system is prone for errors. IOC has to make the process of filling totally automatic. Technology is available for this purpose. It is learnt that all the bottling plants work on similar lines, throughout the country. Which means that the consumers are losing hundreds of crores of Rupees to the oil companies throughout the country, through the purchase of cooking gas refills. The Council has written about its recent findings to the Union Ministers, Sri Shanta Kumar (Consumer Affairs & Public Distribution), Sri Ram Naik (Petroleum & Natural Gas), senior officials of the government of India, Government of Orissa and the IOC and has requested them to take necessary action so that the consumers may get the right quantity of LPG, for which they are charged.
Consumer Protection Council, Rourkela has been devotedly serving the consumers for the past 15 years. Today the Council is being recognised as one of the most active and effective consumer organisations of the country.
Recently a disturbing event was brought to the notice of the Council by the IOC (Indian Oil Corporation Ltd.) authorities, as well as by Hon'ble Sri Ram Naik, Union Minister for Petroleum & Natural Gas. Someone inimical to the Council or to M/s RWCCS Ltd. (SAHAYOG) or to both, has written letters to IOC as well as to the Union Minister, complaining against "Indane" LPG distribution being made by M/s SAHAYOG. (A copy of the letter under reference is enclosed.)
Public are hereby informed that whenever a letter is written on behalf
of the Council, it is written on the Council's letter-head with proper
reference number, etc. Since the attempt to impersonate the Secretary and
the Council is a serious matter of public interest, a complaint has been
lodged with Sector-3 Police Station (Diary No. 506, dated 17-8-2000), for
investigation and further necessary action.
As a result of the field survey conducted by CPC, Rourkela regarding under-weighment of "Indane" LPG refills, (Advantage Consumer, July 2000), IOC authorities had been activated. The Sr. LPG Manager, Orissa State Office, IOC (MD), contacted the Secretary and expressed his concern over our the findings. Subsequently, the Asst. Manager (LPG-S), at Rourkela visited the Council's office and suggested that a joint survey be conducted. As agreed, the survey was planned to be conducted from 22-7-2000, for about a week, to cover around 100 households. On behalf of the Council Sri B. Panda, Jt. Secretary of the Council joined the survey.
On the first day, i.e., on 22-7-2000, 18 households were surveyed, and of the 18 sealed cylinders weighed, 14 were found to contain less gas than declared. The survey findings are given below :
1. As against the net weight of 14.2 kg. of LPG, the consumers on an average are getting only 12.59 kg. (11.33 % or 1.61 kg. less).
2. Only 22.22 % of the refill cylinders weighed were within the tolerance limit of 1.5 % error, prescribed in Scheduled-II of the Packaged Commodities Rules.
3. Consumers are losing on an average Rs. 25.50 per refill of Indane.
Probably finding that the study findings were going against them, the IOC officer conveyed his inability to continue with the survey due to some urgent meeting at Bhubaneswar. Though the Council waited for more than a week, it did not receive any information as to when it can recommence the survey. Instead a letter was received from GM, Orissa State Office, IOC (MD), informing that the spring balance used for weighing is not approved by the Department of Legal Metrology. It is also a fact that when the survey was conducted, no one objected to the weighments nor pointed out any deficiency in the spring balance.
The Council has referred the matter to Director, Legal Metrology, New Delhi and has enquired as to whether weighment with a spring balance has any sanctity or not, while pointing out that the spring balance used by the Council is being checked against standard weights and is weighing accurately. The Council has also informed about these developments to Union Ministers for Consumer Affairs & Public Distribution, Petroleum & Natural Gas, officials of the government and IOC.
The IOC officials met the Secretary of CPC, Rourkela and assured that all efforts were being made to ensure correct weighment of the refiill cylinders and the dealers had been advised to check 100 % of the refills received from the bottling plant and before delivery to the consumers.
The District Forum, Rourkela has directed the proprietor of M/s Sri K.K. Sons and the Far East Marketing Pvt. Ltd., the manufacturer of Maharaja Whiteline Mixer Grinders to refund the cost of the mixer grinder along with 18 % interest and also to pay a compensation of Rs. 10,000/- and cost of Rs. 1,000/- to the consumer, within 30 days, for selling a defective Maharaja Whiteline Super Turbo Mixer Grinder.
Sri B.Vaidyanathan purchased a Maharaja Whiteline Super Turbo Mixer Grinder, by paying a sum of Rs. 2,750/-, in December 1997, under the ceiling fan gift scheme. Right from the beginning, due to some defect in the mixer grinder, irrespective of the load it was tripping after running for a minute or so. As per specification, the mixer grinder is rated to run for 60 minutes without break. The consumer wrote a letter to the manufacturer of the said mixer grinder, complaining about the problem faced by him.
As advised by them Sri Vaidyanathan approach M/s Sri K.K. Sons, their authorised distributor at Rourkela. M/s Sri K.K. Sons kept the mixer grinder for nearly 45 days but could not rectify the defect. Subsequently the manufacturer advised the dealer to replace the Mixer Grinder. Even that was not heeded by the dealer and the marketing company also did not intervene effectively to redress the grievance of the consumer. Since there was no other option Sri Vaidyanathan approached the District Forum, Rourkela in September, 1998, through Consumer Protection Council, Rourkela.
Though the opposite parties alleged, as an after thought, that the complainant had got the mixer grinder attended by an unauthorised person, they could not prove their allegation.
The Forum presided by Md. Inclab Ummar, did not have any hesitation in
awarding a suitable compensation of Rs. 10,000/-, as prayed by the Council,
for the mental agony and physical inconvenience underwent by the complainant
and his family. The other members of the Forum are Sri Sapan Kumar Pani
and Smt. Snigdha Rani Panigrahi.
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