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Saturday, August 23, 2008

Technology without thought!

The following news item sounds too fanciful to believe. Our domestic supply of LPG is already heavily subsidised and the oil companies have frozen all further new connections according to other news reports. But, over and above the cost of subsidy now they are willing to spend more on each cylinder as a radio transmitter to track their movement. I can see some smart salesman getting large increments for having sold this boogey to the oil companies.

This technology would mean money spent on radio transmitter on each of the domestic cylinders and tracking systems in every area and then people to monitor these systems and then people to inspect suspicious 'movement' if they were traced. There will of course be the repair work necessary for the radio and maintenance of all the monitoring devices. As such devices these days come with fixed lifetime, there will be need for upgrades. ...All this will add further to the exchequers subsidy cost unless of course the consumer is made to cough up for this fancy gadget too.

Imagine (as it always happens) people lending their under utilized to their neighbour for a temporary function would henceforth mean a 'blip' in the radar of the monitoring device. This would mean a visit to 'inspect' such a movement and perhaps people will be told not to help their neighbours after all and certainly not with their cylinders. I wonder how much more corruption such 'inspectors' will propagate! In a few years there will be corruption charges against them and then an areawise supervisor appointed to over see them only till as such time when they are rendered corrupt...there will eventually be enquiry commissions, NGOs seeking access to the monitoring devices, 'social audits' of these lowest level functionaries because they have the power to control over a few hundred rupees worth of essential service and need to be monitored.

The system of corruption stems from the thoughtless mind and here is a clear case. And minds at the very top in this country has rarely been punished for lack of thought.

I really wonder how large is the magnitude of loss through the diversion of domestic LPG for commercial purpose and how will such a move curb this diversion! A simple survey may probably provide that such diversions happen (as far as I know) with the knowledge of the local authorities in-charge of the distribution, the local dealer or the door to door supplier and often with their cooperation, if not active participation. Placing a technology to monitor them too will depend on them for its implementation. One can think what kind of cooperation they may want to provide!!

The radio tag is an interesting technology that has been adopted in very innovative ways across the world. But, such adaptation sounds to me as a very bad idea.

Domestic LPG cylinders to have radio tags - Express India: "LPG cylinders, used for cooking in households, will now come with a radio frequency tag to detect if the heavily subsidised gas was being diverted to commercial establishments like restaurants.

Domestic LPG costs Rs 348.89 less than the cylinders meant for commercial use and this difference often leads them into restaurants and hotels who are supposed to use only industrial LPG, a Petroleum Ministry official said.

All cylinders will be tagged with a unique number and consumers will be issued smart cards. Every time a refill is delivered, the unique number would be stored on the smart cards. All this information will be accessible to oil firms who would bottle LPG only in those cylinders which had actually been used in some household."

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