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Wednesday, October 2, 2013

We Need Innovative, Effective & Smart Social Audits

We discussed about Sensinomics earlier, in the context of petroleum price revision and its lack of sensibility in economics. I must be the nth person in the country to discuss this. However, our Governing super bureaucrats are not bothered about public or their inputs and they went on to constitute a committee to study about revision of pricing (or, was it a committee to find some digestible reasons to increase the price?). The results are obvious and pre-determined and in a nutshell, it recommends an increase of Rs. 100/- for domestic cooking gas and an increase of Rs.4/- for the diesel. This is apart from the already slotted Rs. 0.50 increase per month!

The committee to study about price revision was appointed by the ministry with consultation
and consent of these oil companies! How does this committee arrive at an unbiased conclusion? By arriving at a figure based on the financial data provided by the companies (Not by considering independently amalgamated data!) and how on the earth it becomes an independent revision exercise? On top of this, do you have any sampling done among the consumers from various strata? (No authentic information available despite multiple pleas under the provision of RTI Act). There were multiple finance wizards who came up with multi-level suggestions and none of their inputs are taken into consideration before arriving at the (il)logical conclusion.

All this adds cost to the consumer, as it gets funded by the tax payer. In fact, what’s happening in this country is that the tax payer appoints a committee with awesome fees and perks to find a reason to increase the prices of the commodities consumed by them?! Irony….! Is it not? How can we end it? In the current system we have no choice other than going to the court individually or collectively; which would take a long time to decide. In the meanwhile, the price can be increased unilaterally, unless we get a direction from the court or stay order on any price increase till the judgment is made on the matter.

In this context, we should seriously think about bringing in effective social audits in the sector, which should reflect the sensibilities of the ordinary people; among whom you come across excellent and practical ‘Sensible Economists’ or ‘Sensinomists’. How to bring this into effect needs detailed discussions. However touch points would be a multi-level approach….

First Level:

The online response platforms should be provided at each petroleum outlets which is going to be a large network. This would empower the end customer give their feedback direct and without any interference and delay.

This can also give responsive customers an opportunity to comment not just on the pricing, but on various services (or lack of those) offered by the franchisee or the companies.

Second Level:

Initiate social audits at ‘Panchayat’ level by independent people groups. This can be initiated at Gram Sabha and other social and governing bodies, where collective discussions are held to pass a resolution to be sent to the ministry with copy to companies. Akshaya Centers, JanSeva Kendras, e-Seva Kendras or such online kiosks at Panchayat levels can be utilized to send this referendum online.

Top Level:

Furthermore, it could be done by multiple Civil Society bodies at the top level. This level of participation is to bring in fresh thoughts and out of the box ideas without bereaving the essence of social justice to amicably find sustenance solutions in this energy craving globe.

This independent body with eminent economists with common sense should audit the financial data based on the international thumb rules and social data available. These interventions are expected to be transparent and consumer centric.

More would get evolved as this process progresses and it could be formalized later on to improvise every bit of this process.