Suspecting an alliance between company officials and petrol pump operators in the short selling of fuels, the petroleum ministry has directed oil marketing companies (OMCs) to conduct surprise raids on all retail outlets (ROs) through a third party and impart swift punishment against dealers and officials allegedly involved in the scam.
Issuing a four-pronged strategy to counter the menace detected in Uttar Pradesh last month, the ministry on May 15 had directed the OMCs to prepare a “comprehensive action plan” to check all 62,000 ROs to restore the confidence of public at large.
“Conduct surprise checks of ROs by a third party (officers/team outside sales/ marketing departments) and take immediate time-bound stringent departmental action as per the Marketing Discipline Guidelines, including termination of licences, against ROs and officers found guilty,” it said.
The ministry believes that the tampering of dispensing units was getting rampant primarily because neither the detection drive was being strictly followed by the OMCs’ sales officers nor the technical mechanism to detect them was foolproof.
Another reason for repeated occurrence of such incidents, said the ministry note, was the unwarranted delays by the OMC officials in taking action against serious offences committed by the dealers. This, it saw as a sign of dealer-official nexus.
To that end, the ministry’s third step was that the OMCs “initiate criminal proceedings against ROs having substantive charges of committing malpractices”. The fourth stage, it said, was to ensure a foolproof mechanism including exploring the possibility of installing a “dual seal” at all retail outlets to avoid recurrence of such incidents.
Last month, a Special Task Force in Uttar Pradesh unearthed a scam in which several petrol pumps were found using remote control-linked electronic chips in their fuel dispensing machines to cheat consumers by providing them less fuel than what had been charged for. The installed chip reduced the output by 5 to 8 per cent.