India Today expose: How the petrol pump mafia cheats you with a chip
Khurja/Hathras/Noida , June 22, 2017 | Updated 23:22 IST
(Note: In the background of high petrol and diesel prices vis-a-vis the prices prevailing on the international market, here is an expose by India Today investigative team on how petrol pump owners are cheating people using a remote-controlled chip. The cheating i.e. short-weight ranges between 05 ml and 25 ml per litre. In this context it would be interesting to look at India's world rank in corruption. India has been ranked 79th among 176 countries in the Corruption Perception Index 2016 released by the Transparency International organisation. Its score marginally improved from 38 in 2015 to 40 in 2016. India had a score of 36 in 2012.
The score runs from zero to 100, from highly corrupt to 100. Belarus, Brazil, & China shared the same ranks as India.
The list was topped by New Zealand and Denmark with a score of 90 each. Higher-ranked countries tend to have higher degrees of press freedom, access to information about public expenditure, stronger standards of integrity for public officials, and independent judicial systems.
Somalia was ranked the most corrupt country with a score of 10. Other countries with lower rankings were South Sudan, North Korea, Syria, and Yemen. The lower-ranked countries in the index were plagued by untrustworthy and badly functioning public institutions like the police and judiciary.
Food adulteration, unsafe drinking water, spurious medicines, the practice of cheating customers with short weight, fleecing of tourists, the killing of several proponents of freedom of expression and of the Press, the recent case in the Supreme Court of India on 500% jump in assets of several legislators, are indicators that our country has a long way to go on the curruption perception index. Isaac Gomes, Church Citizens' Voice).
Driving in and out, rarely do we realise we might just have been cheated on our routine stopovers. India Today has unearthed a possible widespread scam at some of our regular fuel stations.
Recently, a special task force raided suspected pumps in Uttar Pradesh but India Today's investigation confirmed those suspicions – how you actually risk being ripped off while refueling.
In the ceramics city of Khurja, the network's undercover team walked into Uttam Sewa filling station, one of the busiest petrol pumps along the Bulandshahr highway.
Chaman, a fuel attendant at Uttam Sewa, was an insider of the tricks of the trade. He candidly revealed some of them to India Today's investigative reporters, posing as potential buyers of a petrol pump.
"See brother, it's all about setting a chip into it (the dispenser). If you have a solid grip (on the system), you can have the quantity (of the fuel) reduced in connivance with the engineer. Only an engineer can put it in. Whatever configuration you want — 50gm, 40gm — a chip-set is fitted in," Chaman disclosed.
CHIP DOES THE TRICK
He was referring to a remote-controlled chip that can be hidden inside fuel machines. This tiny device replaces the original gadget to manipulate deliveries.
It works by speeding up meter reading but giving the customers less than indicated.
"There's a remote control. If there's an inspection, just switch it off. It's just like a car-lock remote. When you turn it off, it will deliver full quantity," Chaman explained, confessing a machine at his workplace had been rigged the same way.
That's not all. Chaman also demonstrated another trick.
He would fit the nozzle of his hose loosely on its hanger so that it doesn't bring the reading back to zero.
A customer, next in line, would end up getting an under-delivery if she fails to keep a vigilant eye on the metre before the attendant fills up.
AUTHORITIES ALSO INVOLVED?
At Hathras' Madhav Filling Station, manager Keshav Singh unravelled how the deceit is executed in collusion with weight and measurement officials.
"The day these machines are stamped (for installation), it's then that the tampering happens. Just ask the person from the weights and measurement department to fix the meter," he said. "You tell him to save you 30 gm (ml) in 5 litres. He will detune the dispenser in accordance with what you want."
It wasn't an off-the-cuff advice to the undercover reporters. Keshav Singh has deployed the same methods at his own petrol station.
"How much is your machine tampered with?" asked the journalist.
"It's 20ml, 25ml (per litre)," Singh admitted. "But don't tamper with the machines that have less customers around. If a doctored machine is caught during inspections, I'd still have two machines running okay," he said.
5 ML PER LITRE IS STOLEN
In Noida, Kartar Singh, an attendant at Malik Filling Station, admitted that machines at his facility were altered to dispense five millilitre less on every litre of fuel.
"Everything is done. No one comes to know of anything. What's 5ml (per litre) but it makes a lot of difference in the long run," he said.
He disclosed the tampering is done smoothly by professionals called fitters.
In Agra, India Today's teams visited one of the petrol pumps raided just last month for suspected fraud.
At the city's Friends Filling Station, attendant Bhikam Khan has been working over a decade-and-a-half.
Investigators have yet to come out with a conclusive report, but Khan spilled the beans to India Today's special team.
"What was installed in the machines?" asked the reporter.
"It decreased the fuel delivery, around 100-150 ml for every 5 litres we sold," he replied, citing the cheat chips for petrol and diesel deliveries.
"The system was compromised in all our machines. The officials weren't able to understand. But they had their doubts and took away some apparatus from one of the dispensers," he revealed.
India's fuel demand in 2016 has grown at its highest pace over the last 16 years. Data show the country consumed almost 25 crore litres of diesel everyday and seven-and-a-half crore litres of petrol daily last year.
If the size of the scam is as big as it is suspected to be, under-deliveries for every refuel could just be draining the national economy, with cheats making a killing in illegal profits.