Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Capping LPG cylinders in Jammu Kashmir

Chaotic situation has developed in regard to capping of LPG cylinders ordered by the Government after consultations with oil and gas majors in the country. On September 14, Union Government announced drastic reform in supply of LPG cylinders and fixed maximum of six cylinders per family per year on subsidized rates. However, additional cylinders would be available on higher rates. But this is not a uniform criterion. The Congress ruled states like Delhi will provide nine cylinders per family per year on subsidized rates and beyond that cylinders will be available on higher rates.

In the case of Jammu and Kashmir, only six cylinders per family per year have been allowed. It means that since half of the year (2012) is already gone, for the remaining period of six months till March 2013, each family in the State will get only three cylinders on subsidized rates. Anybody in need of extra cylinders will have to pay the higher price though that too is not sure because the Government is yet to decide what would be the price of non-subsidized cylinder.

This drastic decision has been taken by the Union Government in view of spiraling bill on energy resource in the country. The bill was likely to touch 200 lakh crore of rupees by the end of current financial year. The Prime Minister had touched on this point during his recent broadcast to the nation. He was emphatic in stating that some hard measures had to be taken to bridge over country's financial difficulties. Capping of the supply of LPG cylinders is the result of one such austerity measure. Hike in the price of diesel may not evoke as much of public resentment as the new policy of supply of LPG cylinders has evoked. The reason is that diesel is consumed by affluent sections of society and big business magnates who run diesel cars. But LPG is a dire necessity for all and curtailment of cylinder is going to adversely affect the middle and lower middle class of our population.

But the manner in which the entire matter is handled in our State has raised many fingers. Firstly, if Delhi ---- a Congress run State--- has been allowed nine cylinders per family per year, why should not this be possible for J&K State when we know that this hilly and mountainous State is debilitated economically in more than one way? Objectively speaking, the State should be allowed nine cylinders per family per year, and that would be justified in view of long winter and greater consumption as a consequence. Secondly, much chaos has been caused by asking consumers to get their gas cards re-verified although only three months back this exercise had been completed. Why are half hearted decisions taken by the gas outlets and why does the Government let them have their way. It is harassment of the people and unacceptable as it will call for PIL on a large scale. People have not forgotten the ordeal through which they were made to go when three months ago they were asked to get their gas cards verified. Re-enactment of that activity will earn the wrath of the people. Therefore the Government should immediately order stopping of re-validation of gas cards in the case of those that have already gone through the process.

Reports are coming in that besides ordinary consumers, even the Congress and NC activists including some ministers have expressed resentment to the capping of LPG cylinders to a maximum of 6 in the case of J&K State. Some ministers have even said that they would be raising the issue in the forthcoming cabinet meeting and will forcefully plead for a mechanism of rationalizing the decision. Revenue Minister disclosed that he has even written to the Chief Minister about people's resentment to the unjust capping of cylinders and demanded revision of the policy. He has also pointed out that re-validation of gas connection is harassment of civilian population.

In final analysis, it is true that the country is passing through financial hardship and the Government has to take drastic steps to check its deterioration. It is also true that ultimately people will have to bear the brunt. But at the same time, the reformative measures should be uniformly applicable, and secondly these should not cause harassment of the ordinary people. The Government should have worked out smooth transition from one set of conditions to another. Put in simple words, the Government has to do two things to bring this chaotic situation to an end. One is to increase the number of subsidized LPG cylinders from six per family per year to nine and second is to withdraw orders of re-verification of gas connections in such cases in which verification has already been done. This will ease the situation

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