LPG Crisis Worsens As Relief Hope Fades

JK Ministers Fail To Convince GoI On Cap Raise 

Srinagar - The prevailing crisis over cooking gas has taken a turn for the worse as the National Conference-led government failed to carry conviction with the government of India for raising the cap on subsidized cylinders as has been done by Congress-ruled states. Worse, union minister and National Conference president, Dr Farooq Abdullah, has ruled out the possibility of any raise in the cap. 

The prospect of any early relief diminished after the much-hyped ministerial team led by the deputy chief minister, Tara Chand, failed to convince the prime minister, Manmohan Singh, about the peculiar conditions prevailing in the state, particularly in Kashmir, where the harsh winter has already set in, earlier than usual. 

Dr Singh is understood to have stopped just short of announcing any immediate raise in the cap on subsidized LPG as demanded by the “special status” and geographically disadvantaged region and merely told the J&K ministers that it would be looked into, if reports about the meeting were to be believed. 

Back home, with the state government and its languid administration looking the other way, LPG crisis has deepened with the valley consumers, in particular, facing avoidable problems in procuring the most sought-after essential commodity. Left to the mercy of barely 43 distributors, when their number should have been over a thousand, they are made to run from pillar to post to get a connection or to buy a cylinder. 

Long queues with empty cylinders are in sight everywhere in the city and all major and small towns across the valley with the consumers, including women and children, waiting outside the retail outlets for their turns in biting cold. “In numerous cases when a person reaches his turn to get the refill he is told the stocks had exhausted. Inflating the figures of sales, the dealers sell the cylinders in black at around Rs 2,000 each,” a group of consumers alleged. 

The time-consuming and cumbersome documentation for obtaining new LPG connection or renewing the existing one, they alleged, had become another source of making a fast buck by the dealers. A Khanyar consumer, Muhammad Afzal, said he had return empty-handed after visiting the dealer five times. Though he had a valid connection, he was denied supply on the plea he should get the registration renewed. 

Hafeeza, a Rainawari consumer said she could not afford to buy a cylinder even at Rs 1,200, though it is not available at that price because of the artificial scarcity created by the dealers to fleece the gullible consumers. 

A Maisuma consumer, Abdul Aziz, alleged there was a nexus between the CAPD officials and the LPG dealers. The consumers were being forced to procure the needed cooking gas from the black market at exorbitant prices. The consumers from Qamarwari urged the director-general of police, Ashok Prasad, and the inspector-general of police, S M Sahai, to launch a vigorous drive against hoarding and profiteering in LPG. A group of consumers from Sopore sought cancellation of licenses of the dealers found involved in such market offences. 

Reports from various towns, including Baramulla, Sopore, Bandipore, Kupwara, Pattan, Sumbal, Safapur, Tangdar, Handwara, Tangmarg, Budgam and Chadoora as also from various areas of the four South Kashmir districts have said the situation there was no different with the consumers facing hardships in procuring LPG. 

With the Power Development Department having already imposed a drastic cut in power supply in the city and elsewhere in the valley, the situation is getting out of hand by the day. Several areas in the city and elsewhere have witnessed massive demonstrations to protest the LPG crisis and the government’s inability to tackle it. Indications are that in case the government fails to address the popular clamor for LPG, the situation may deteriorate further. (With inputs from KNS) 

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