Citizens' Issues
Fuel adulteration—a sting in the tail

There is a real danger for people who have taken stands especially when using the RTI Act of India 2005, but then one will not live forever. And also, there is some truth in the saying that it all comes around eventually

A few weeks ago, I received a veiled sort of threatening call in connection with one of the articles I had written, and happened to mention this to a friend of mine. These things have stopped bothering me now, for more than one reason, because if somebody has to do something—they will not threaten. Agreed, there is a real danger for people who have taken stands especially when using the RTI (Right to Information) Act of India 2005, but then one will not live forever. And also, there is some truth in the saying that it all comes around eventually.

Here is one such episode:

This was way back in December 2005. The episode is picked up from a previous article on Moneylife, which itself was about a government officer being burnt by the fuel mafia in Maharashtra: The fuel mafia must go up in flames.

“If you live in any city for any length of time, you very soon get to learn which are the ‘good’ filling stations and which are suspect. By and large, the “CoCo”, or “Company Owned Company Operated” pumps are reliable, and the long lines of motor vehicles waiting outside would bear testament. And then, there are those which are totally unreliable, which even the locals avoid.

One such filling station, operated by HPCL, was located inside the largely residential area of Aundh. Living in nearby Baner myself, I had been warned not to take diesel from there, by others in the same area. Despite this, one fine day when I was away, the office staff decided to top up the car-and took fuel from there.

I got into Pune, and as soon as I started driving the car, felt the difference in performance. So I went to the filling station in question, and asked to see the owner, the manager and the complaint book. The answer I got from the attendants was, in all three cases, that the owner was a senior Congress politician, Datta Gaikwad, in those days loyal to Suresh Kalmadi, who was also a leading HPCL (Hindustan Petroleum Corporation) distributor as well as kingpin in the automobile and fuel business in and around Pune and for that matter all over the Maharashtra and Goa belt, and that I could lump it but nothing and nobody was available.

In addition, I was given the usual spiel by the hangers-on about how non-Maharashtrians were damaging the fabric of the city, which was even then becoming the standard ploy.

So, in the next phase, I decided to escalate the issue to HPCL. One Mr Ingle was listed as the HPCL area manager and his mobile phone number was provided. I called Mr Ingle, who gave me, in turn, the royal run-around, and directed me to visit his office, offer a written complaint, provide him with samples, and do many more things, in triplicate and in three bottles full. Interestingly, within one hour of that phone call by yours truly, I started receiving calls from the dealer as well as his ‘friends’ who wished to meet me, to advise me. In Pune, people know what this ‘advice’ means.

A lesser man would have given up at this juncture-but by then I was in full flow, so I escalated the issue by email and written letters to everybody there was at HPCL. Interim, of course, I made sure I avoided Aundh—because by then HPCL and their cohorts, one GSV Prasad Gottipati, chief regional manager, presiding, had started laying on the heat. Open threats, followed by tapping of telephone bills and data therein, as well as insinuations which were followed by a major campaign by no less than the chief manager, PR & Corp Communication, Laxman Motwani, to force me into withdrawing my complaint.

The matter then reached another level when the Maharashtra Herald, an independent newspaper in those days, organised a methodical survey of over 60 filling stations in the Pune-Pimpri-Chinchwad area, for fuel quantity and quality. The report was carried on its front page and was very illuminating. The MH was sold to the Pawars subsequently and the rest is media history.

Eventually, of course, somebody from assorted directors and chairman’s offices offered apologies. Another bunch promised action. Some people got transferred around. And Life went on.”

Till, somebody from Pune sent me a link to another article, this time by the “Pune Mirror”. Which also showed that I had mis-spelt the name, the proper spelling was “Ingale”. Manohar Ingale. I have it in my old correspondence.

CBI nets HPCL officer—“The Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB) of Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has raided several flats, offices and bungalows belonging to Manohar Maruti Ingale, a project manager with Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited (HPCL) on Friday evening.”

 

Could this be, perchance, the same Manohar Ingale, who was probably involved in threatening me? And what, by now, has happened to Datta Gaikwad and Suresh Kalmadi?

But that’s not the point. The bigger point is this—we cannot live in fear of what may happen all our life. Yes, risks have to be taken, and precautions taken to counter threats. But one can not stop doing what one has to because of threats.

Each one of the players mentioned in this report above, and more, all the way up to the top at HPCL, pushed me in a variety of ways.

At the same time, there were even more people from HPCL who quietly provided me with information on this, and more.

You have your choices, you can stand in front. Or you can fight from the sidelines, even from behind, but fight to improve things you must.

This article is by way of thanks to the army of people from HPCL, some serving, some retired and yes, and yes, some unfairly fired, who helped.

(Veeresh Malik started and sold a couple of companies, is now back to his first love—writing. He is also involved actively in helping small and midsize family-run businesses re-invent themselves. Mr Malik had a career in the Merchant Navy which he left in 1983, qualifications in ship-broking and chartering, a love for travel, and an active participation in print and electronic media as an alternate core competency, all these and more.)

 

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COMMENTS

Sanjay C

5 years ago

We are a Mafia state now.

REPLY

Ratanlal Purohit

In Reply to Sanjay C 5 years ago

Diagnosis is half the treatment

Pawan Duggirala

5 years ago

"You have your choices, you can stand in front. Or you can fight from the sidelines, even from behind, but fight to improve things you must"....just became my most favourite quote.Thank you again for sharing your experiences.

Ratanlal Purohit

5 years ago

GOOD.
THE CANDLE IS GROWING TO LIME LIGHT.
Remembering Poet Bharat Vyas song Yeh kahani hai Nirbal ki Balwan se. Yeh kahani diye ki aur Toofan ki.

P M Ravindran

5 years ago

'...but fight to improve things you must.'

Amen to that.

Krishnaraj Rao

5 years ago

Excellent, Veeresh. Glad to read this! Kudos, and more power to you. May your tribe multiply.

K B Patil

5 years ago

I hope this Ingle and Kalmadi get their just desert and share a common cell wherein they can entertain each other with stories of 'HOW THEY TRIED TO FOOL ALL THE PEOPLE ALL THE TIME" but could only "FOOL ALL THE PEOPLE FOR SOME TIME" till God said, "enough is enough".

Ratanlal Purohit

5 years ago

Yes single crusader is at risk against the organised crime supported by the very persons who are at the hem. Very few like Subramaniam Swamy dare take it to its logical conclusion.
All those who want to fight for transparency should operate as a group. But then we have to permit NGOs to seek RTI. At least individual risk to life will be reduced considerably.
More and more like minded groups will then come forward. Ingles will then can be singled out.
Good job. I FULLY AGREE WITH VEERESH. YOU FULLY JUSTIFY THE NAME GIVEN TO YOU BY YOUR PARENTS.
Ratanlal Purohit

REPLY

malq

In Reply to Ratanlal Purohit 5 years ago

Dear Ratanlal Purohit ji, thank you for writing in.

Each small candle in a corner of a dark room. That, and the freedom to be a bit of a maverick, though not without the support and even if I may say so, cover provided by MoneyLife and the good people there.

Shall certainly let my mother know about the name giving part.

Some day, shall publish what she said when somebody landed up to provide a threat in the form of "advice".

Best/VM

Ratanlal Purohit

In Reply to malq 5 years ago

Ricardo Semler's book Maverick is the best book on Workplace management that is being studied by even Boston or Harward. We have to be a maverick in our own way.
I am sure the conviction and courage will take anyone to the pinnacle.
Keep it up.
Waiting to hear your mother's advice to you. But because of Veermata Shivaji was Shivaji
rbp

Cement prices to rule firm in FY12-13: CMIE

“Cement prices are likely to remain high in the coming months. The growth is expected to moderate as the base effect sets in. Prices are expected to recover and rise by 6.4% in FY11-12, after falling in the previous year,” CMIE said in its monthly review

Mumbai: Cement prices are expected to rule firm in the coming months due to rising input costs and manufacturing expenses, reports PTI quoting the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE).

“(Cement) prices are likely to remain high in the coming months. The growth is expected to moderate as the base effect sets in. Prices are expected to recover and rise by 6.4% in FY11-12, after falling in the previous year,” the think-tank said in its monthly review.

The prices are expected to average 3.8% higher in FY12-13, it said.

During the third quarter of FY11-12, power and fuel cost rose by 10.7% year-on-year (y-o-y) due to twin effects of higher coal prices (both domestic and imports) and cheaper rupee against the dollar.

Freight costs were also higher by 12.5% y-o-y due to increase in diesel costs and surcharge levied by the railways.

The cement price in Mumbai, one of the largest markets, shot up by Rs42 per 50 kg bag, from Rs248 in January 2011 to Rs290 in January 2012. The average price of cement bag was Rs292 in January 2012, CMIE said.

Meanwhile, the demand of cement is expected to improve in the coming months and growth in despatches is likely to be modest at around 4% during the March 2012 quarter, the research outfit added.

Leading cement producer ACC said its production for February 2012 stood at 2.14 metric tonnes per annum (MTPA) as against 1.97 MTPA in the corresponding period in 2011. The despatches increased from 2 MT in February 2011 to 2.15 MT last month.

Ambuja Cements’ output shot up from 17.91 lakh tonnes in February 2011 to 19.93 lakh tonnes in February 2012. The despatches rose from 17.74 lakh tonnes in February 2011 to 20 lakh tonnes in February 2012.

Cement production of Aditya Birla Group-owned UltraTech moved up by 3.02% at 357.28 lakh tonnes for the period April-February FY11-12 as against 346.82 lakh tonnes during April-February FY10-11.

The company’s despatches moved up by 3.2 per cent at 357.41 lakh tonnes in April-February 2011-2012 compared to 346.33 lakh tonnes in the corresponding period last fiscal.

Cement output of UltraTech for February 2012 stood higher by 4.96% at 34.68 lakh tonnes and despatches at 35.17 lakh tonnes, up 5.67% over February 2011.

The cement industry expansion is set to moderate, with only 31 MTPA of capacity expected to be added this fiscal, much lower than 55 MTPA added in 2010-11, CMIE said.

However, a slowdown in demand has become a bigger concern, Angel Broking analyst Sourabh Taparia said.

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Realty sector seeks relaxation in FDI, ECB norms

“The sector should be given an industry status that will enable developers to have access to debt lending at competitive rates from banks and financial institutions,” said Sunteck Realty chairman and managing director Kamal Khetan

Mumbai: Developers in the realty sector, which is facing severe credit crunch due to higher interest rates, expect the government to relax norms for repatriation of foreign direct investment (FDI) and external commercial borrowings (ECBs) in the forthcoming Budget for 2012-13, reports PTI.

“The real estate sector has witnessed rapid growth in the recent past. However, raising funds continues to be a big constraint for us. We expect some policy decision on FDI in real estate that will benefit the market greatly,” Puranik Builders managing director Shailesh Puranik said.

The industry expects the Budget, to be announced on 16th March, to relax norms for FDI and ECBs, especially for township projects that will give developers source funds at a much reasonable cost.

Currently, it is not possible for foreign investors to repatriate real estate investment proceeds for three years, which is hampering investment flows, Jones Lang LaSalle chairman and country head Anuj Puri said.

“Relaxing norms for repatriation of realty FDI is the need of the hour. The market environment needs to be rendered more investment-friendly,” he said.

Besides this, the sector is hoping to get industry status as it is a major driver for economic growth and generates jobs across various verticals.

“The real estate sector is the second largest employer contributing 5% to the gross domestic product (GDP) and generating large-scale jobs across its varied verticals.

“The sector should be given an industry status that will enable developers to have access to debt lending at competitive rates from banks and financial institutions,” said Sunteck Realty chairman and managing director Kamal Khetan.

Realty players are also expecting sops for affordable housing and want it to be given priority in lending in order to address the acute housing shortage.

“We expect revision in tax for affordable housing projects in order to address the acute housing shortage in the country. The government should consider abolition of service tax for residential apartments up to Rs50 lakh to promote affordable housing.

“Besides, affordable housing should be classified as priority sector lending to ensure easy availability of funds for projects,” Housing Development & Infrastructure (HDIL) vice-chairman and managing director Sarang Wadhawan said.

Developers are also expecting the government to increase the subvention of 1% on interest rate to be available to broader price band.

They said that while tax incentives should continue for developers in the affordable segment, the subvention of 1% on interest rate should be available to broader price band.

To benefit home buyers, it is necessary that the last year’s interest rate subsidy of 1% is continued. The limit for the scheme should be raised from Rs20 to Rs30 lakh due to increase in cost of raw materials and various taxes incurred during home buying,” Sanghvi Group director Shailesh Sanghvi said.

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