Uproar, Walkout In LA Over LPG Crisis


Govt Rules Out Relief, Says Will Approach Centre 

Srinagar: Amid pandemonium marked by uproarious scenes and walk-out by the entire opposition, the Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly Wednesday discussed the fall out of 6-cylinder cap on LGP announced by the government, as members, transcending their party and regional lines, voiced grave concern over the crisis. 

 Taking a near unanimous stand on the issue, members urged the government to increase the cap on subsidized LGP cylinders on the pattern of Delhi state and also to ease the procedure for procurement and verification of gas connections in view of the approaching winter. 

Responding to the demand, the government told the House it would urge the centre to increase the cap of subsidized LPG cylinders in view of harsh climatic conditions of the state. After the session is over, it said, government would send a delegation to New Delhi for the purpose. 

Initiating the discussion after the speaker, Muhammad Akbar Lone, agreed to suspend the Question Hour, National Conference member, Choudhary Muhammad Ramzan, said the entire state faced acute shortage of gas cylinders. He was interrupted by Peoples Democratic Party’s Nizamuddin Bhat who wanted the discussion to be opened by opposition instead of a member from the treasury bench as per precedent. But Lone overruled Bhat saying there was no such rule and asked Choudhary to continue. 

The NC member said there was only one gas agency in Kupwara district and re-verification of documents would take months together. He alleged companies were refusing to issue gas cylinders even to those with valid documents. Choudhary demanded the government take up the issue with the centre for raising the subsidized cylinder cap to 12 cylinders because of the harsh winters. 

 Expressing surprise over the lowering of the cap on subsidized cylinders, Choudhary said every consumer would now be entitled to six subsidized cylinders in a year and only three till March next year. He said the cumbersome procedure being adopted for verification and grant of gas connections was bound to push up hoarding and black-marketing in LPG. 

How Will People Survive: Mehbooba 

Coming down heavily on the government, leader of the opposition in the House and PDP chief, Mehbooba Mufti, said people were passing through difficult times because of LPG crisis. “There is no wood, no kerosene oil, no electricity and now no LPG, how will people survive when they cannot prepare their meals,” she asked, alleging there was no government visible on the ground while the gas agencies cheated their consumers. 

Describing the LPG issue as “extremely serious,” Mehbooba said the procedure for verification and procurement of a gas connection was cumbersome and time-consuming because of which the consumers faced physical and psychological trauma. She said the government had hastily implemented the decision without taking people’s hardships into consideration.  

Mehbooba expressed her surprise over the members of treasury benches raising the issue in the House instead of forcing their own government to take steps to spare the people of any crisis. 

However, ruling NC member, Mir Saifullah, interrupted her saying members from the treasury benches too had the right to raise issues of common people.  

Others who participated in the discussion included Panther Party’s Harsh Dev Singh, CPI (M) leader, Muhammad Yousuf Tarigami, and BJP’s Prof Chaman Lal Gupta. Gupta sought increase of subsidized LPG cylinders to 12 and reduction in the price of non-subsidized cylinders from Rs 961 to Rs 600. 

While defending the government decision, Congress members, Ghulam Ahmad Mir and Viqar Rasool, urged its reconsideration of subsidy on LPG cylinders in view of the harsh winter in Kashmir valley. 

Replying the debate, the finance minister, Abdul Rahim Rather, sought to defend the government decision to lower the cap on subsidized LPG and hike in prices of diesel and cooking gas. Rather admitted he had heard members from both the treasury and opposition benches voicing their concern over the issue inasmuch as it was difficult to differentiate between the two. 

However, Rather said, the state government had no role in the decision which had been taken on the basis of recommendations of the Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs. He said petroleum companies were incurring a loss of Rs 1,87,127 crore which prompted the recent decision which would affect only 56 per cent of the population. 

Govt Shares People’s Concern on LPG Price Hike: Rather

Ruling out any immediate relief, Rather said that in the event of raising the cap of subsidized cylinders from six to 12, the state government would have to bear an additional burden of Rs 520 crore and if the ceiling is fixed at nine cylinders, the additional burden would be of Rs 260 crore. Obviously, in the event of raising the subsidized cylinder cap, the government would have to mobilize additional resources by reducing allocations for development, employees’ salaries and stipends for widows, old age pensioners and physically challenged people.

Rather was interrupted by Mehbooba Mufti who alleged the less fortunate people had not received their stipends for the past three years. According to CAG report, the government had failed to utilize crores under various schemes while the funds available NABARD had allegedly been swindled. 

Accusing the government of staging gimmicks, Mehbooba, without naming anybody, alleged some ministers had raised assets in Dubai. 

Dissatisfied with the government’s reply, the PDP staged a walk out from the House after which the entire opposition, including JKNPP and BJP, followed suit.  

Shortly before the House assembled, members from Jammu, including those of BJP and National Panthers Party, entered the House raising slogans against the Congress. They said Congress was adopting double standards as in the public, it demanded implementation of amendment 73 and 74 of the Constitution to empower the sarpanches and panches, but still remained in government. “The Congress holds protest demonstrations on roads against the state government, but enjoys after remaining in the coalition,” they said, chanting slogans like, “Roll back the prices of diesel and LPG.” 

Earlier, the BJP and JKNPP members staged a protest outside the Assembly gate against LPG cap and hike in fuel prices. They demanded dismissal of the NC-led coalition government by the governor, NN Vohra.

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