Posted by JR John on February 27, 2000 at 16:13:45:
A manna from heaven for autorickshaws
Hindu 28th February Regional TN News
By N. Ravi Kumar
CHENNAI, FEB. 27. Cheap
herbal fuel to run automobiles
may not convince most people
to make a switch from petrol
even now, but it is manna from
heaven for a good number of
autorickshaws and many two-wheelers in the city.
The controversial `inventor' who is selling the fuel, Mr. Ramar Pillai, now
claims that he will produce one lakh litres a day at his `plant' in
Pallavaram, using just plain sea water and mysterious ingredients, from
No technical data is being offered for the chemical composition of the
fuel, which made headlines when it was first announced, but an estimated
5,000 autorickshaws now run on it.
Serious reservations among scientists on the one side, nearly 20 outlets in
the city selling the fuel are reporting good business. The fuel is also being
offered at Salem and Tirupur.
Unlike a petrol outlet, the fuel, dubbed `herbal hydrocarbon', is being
dispensed from small sheds that get the supply from Mr. Pillai's
manufacturing unit at Pallavaram. It arrives in barrels and the dealer
converts the contents into plastic containers of smaller size, ranging from
10 litres to one litre. ``Motorists are left wondering why no official agency
is willing to analyse and certify it'', say consumer activists.
The shops selling the fuel are at risk: they are not designed for sale of
automotive fuel and have only a fire extinguisher. It is reported that the
dealers are only required to inform the local fire station before setting up
The major question lingers about the fuel itself. When contacted, the
`inventor' was reluctant to talk about it. He has had little trouble with the
State Government in getting it assessed to sales tax. The fuel is included
under ``unknown'' category and levied 11 per cent. ``The total tax on the
fuel including excise works out to nearly 27 per cent'', says the producer,
who now wants the Union Finance Ministry to exempt it from levies.
The dealers get the fuel at Rs. 21.80 per litre and they sell it at Rs. 23 per
litre to the consumers. On an average, each of the franchisees sells an
estimated 1,000 litres daily.
But Mr. Ramar Pillai has been pressing on. The capacity of the
manufacturing unit has been raised from 10,000 litres to one lakh litres
daily. The formal inauguration of the sea water-based new capacity,
which ``involves more of machinery'', is scheduled for March 2.
Acknowledging the scepticism about the product, he says there were a
few incidents of adulteration of his own fuel, after which the dealers
concerned were asked not to sell it any more. To avoid such problems,
the colour and odour of the herbal fuel will be changed.
Putting the onus on preventing adulteration on the Food Cell attached to
the Civil Supplies Department, the producer says, a test conducted at the
instance of the State Government revealed that there was neither lead nor
sulphur in the fuel and the emissions ``were minimal''. Independent data
on the characteristics of the fuel being sold is not available.
The fuel from the one lakh litre capacity plant ``can be priced at just Rs. 2
per litre'', if the Government grants tax sops, claims Mr. Pillai.
Post a Reply