The government has declared the Capital free of blue kerosene, and many have switched over to cooking gas. However, some continue to use the fuel, now overpriced and being smuggled in from other States, out of necessity
Last month, the Delhi Government declared the Capital the first “kerosene-free” city in the country under the Vision 2015 scheme which aims to stop supply of “blue kerosene” at Public Distribution System shops. Any person indulging in kerosene oil trade now is liable for prosecution under the Essential Commodities Act, 1955, and the Delhi Kerosene Oil Control Order, 1962.
On June 27, a good 10 days after the announcement, however, general stores in various parts of the city could be seen selling blue kerosene which is used for cooking etc. It is being smuggled in from Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab through the borders at Narela, Loni, Bahadurgarh and Kapashera. “The mafias add a bit of urea in the tanker and as it moves on the road, the chemical mixes with blue kerosene which turns white and is shown as industrial kerosene,” revealed a dealer. .
The Hindu visited the Ashram area and Bhogal in South Delhi and found general stores clandestinely selling half a litre of blue kerosene at Rs.30, concealing the fuel behind other products in their shops.
The shopkeepers said they knew this was illegal but that the fuel was still in demand. “Bus ye samajh lijiye ki hum sewa main lagey hua hai. Yahan nahi milta fir bhi bahar se la ke de rahe hai jinhe zaroorat hai (You can take it that we are serving people. The fuel is not available in Delhi now, but we are getting it from outside the State and selling it to people in need),” said one shopkeeper in Ashram.
The scene was no different at Wazirpur in North Delhi.
Before Delhi was declared kerosene-free, the blue version of the fuel used to be available in PDS outlets at Rs.14.80 per litre. Its retail value was Rs.15 per litre. With the ban on its sale, it is now being sold illegally at Rs.60 per litre.
Close to the string of shops illegally selling the fuel, labourers could still be seen preparing their meals on kerosene stoves. “We are forced to buy kerosene at a much higher price now and shopkeepers say the price would be increased further as the fuel is now being brought from outside the State,” said Gopal, a migrant from Bihar.
While the government has said it is providing free gas connections along with LPG filled cylinders, a two-burner gas stove, a regulator and a suraksha pipe to the Jhuggi Ration Card, Below Poverty Line and Antodaya Ann Yojana ration card holders who were using kerosene oil for cooking, no BPL cards have been issued in Delhi for several years now. Poor families who lack a ration card cannot get LPG connections under the new scheme and continue to use kerosene or illegal LPG cylinders.
With the illegal kerosene costing much more, they have switched over to using LPG cylinders weighing 2.5 kg and 5 kg, which do not have any ISI certification and are also procured illegally. They do not need a ration card or any other ID for getting the same.
Delhi was earlier getting about 53,000 kilolitre of kerosene oil every year from the Centre, which was issued to eligible households at a subsidised rate. The quota allocated to Delhi was reduced to zero from third quarter of 2013-14. Among the neighbouring States, as per an RTI reply, in UP allocation of PDS kerosene in all four quarters of 2013 was 15,90,528 kl, in Haryana it was 91,260 kl and in Punjab it was 92,532 kl. The quota allocated to these States in the first quarter this year is – Uttar Pradesh 3,97,500 kl , Haryana 22,812 kl and Punjab 22,536 kl.
“While the government has said it will save a subsidy of Rs.200 crore with the city becoming kerosene-free, the subsidy on LPG will cost higher,” claimed a kerosene dealer.