My affection towards the computer started in the year 2002 when my son, Chethan P.Dev, took admission in Fr. Conceicao Rodrigues College of Engineering, Bandra, Mumbai to pursue his studies in B.Tech. (Electronics) and we bought our first desktop computer, a small sexy box alongwith a 14" monitor,
from M/s IBM, India. While learning basic skills like Microsoft Word, Excel, Outlook, Powerpoint, etc., I also started collecting 'soft copy' of various Acts, Rules, Regulations, Circulars, Notifications, etc. for my own reference. During this search I realized that though a lot of documents were available on the websites, most of them were not up-to-date. The files thus collected
were edited, updated and compiled on a mini-CD, normally used in the video cameras, that fitted in any shirt pocket.
When curious colleagues enticed interest in this mini-CD compilation I started duplicating it and sharing with them. This was in the year 2003 and its contents and presentation were upgraded to a newer version in the year 2004, while I learnt basics of coding.
Thousands of copies of these mini-CDs, each containing data of about 250MB (12,000 to 15,000 printed pages roughly)
went into circulation among the customs Officers with the help of the All India Federation of the Superintendents of Customs. It was in the year 2005 that the increase in size of this collection beyond the capacity of the mini-CD coupled with the abrupt stoppage of production of these mini-CDs by their manufacturers put an end to this mini-CD
compilation. A compilation on the normal CD was not thought apt as it couldnot be carried to office and home daily with ease. At this juncture, as I was working with the Risk Management Project Team - pioneer of Risk Managemrnt Division, it was a lot more essential to have all these documents handy for my own reference. Though all these documents were available on my home computer, there was no access to these files from my office.
Being an electronic hobbyist, I could learn Visual Studio 2005, SQL Server 2005,
Visual Basic, C#, etc., easily. Day-to-day interactions with the young engineers of M/s BSL, the sofware developers engaged for the RMS, had also given an opportunity to learn and understand more about Servers, Databases, etc. Internet connection was available in the office and at home, designing, coding and commissioning of a website, converting my little computer into a server, hosting the website on it with all the available documents went on smoothly. Finally
all these documents
became accessible for me from my office
also. Gradually, other colleagues in the Risk Management Division also became part of this network and started accessing these documents whenever they required. The next big question before me was why not allow access to other colleagues working elsewhere in the department? It was an easily achievable feat,
without much additional labour or expenditure, since the website, for that matter, was already on the internet.
Thus on 01.04.2007 this website www.referencer.in was added to the World Wide Web - on an experimental basis, a beta launch in technical
parlance - opening its doors to all the officers and staff working in Customs, Central Excise and other
allied Departments. Later, the field of coverage was extended to Central Excise and Service Tax also as there was an overwhelming response from the central excise side. Lots of other documents like Service Rules, Leave Rules, LTC Rules, etc. required by Central Governemnt Employees were also added considering their use by the officials working in other Ministries and Departments.