Hostels use minimum of 10 cylinders a month, exhausting the annual quota of six cylinders in the first month itself

The annual cap on the number of subsidised LPG cylinders announced by the Central government over a fortnight ago is feared to have an adverse affect on the functioning of welfare hostels in the State.

With the subsidy now restricted to only six cylinders per household in a year, State-run welfare hostels, where hundreds of students stay for education, will find it hard to make their ends meet. While the households can hope to manage by resorting to frugality, hostels have no such opportunity.

“A hostel with hundred students will need a cylinder every three or four days, and a minimum of 10 cylinders in a month. We will have exhausted the annual quota within the first month itself,” says Narender, a Hostel Welfare Officer from Ranga Reddy district. He laments about a new cylinder he recently got from the dealer after paying not less than Rs.1,055.

Hostels are expected to purchase cylinders from the monthly allocations made by the government, based on the number of students in each hostel. The allocation towards mess charges is Rs.475 per head for students between Class III and Class VII, both inclusive, and Rs.535 for those between Class VIII and Class X.

In actual practice, the Hostel Welfare Officers (HWO) often spend the amounts before the funds are released, and then present the bills. With the recent cap on the number of cylinders, they are at a loss to understand if they would get back the amount spent on additional cylinders, as no corresponding increase in the fund allocations has been announced by the government.

“With funds remaining the same, the HWOs will be forced to reduce the quality of food, so that the expenses can be met within the grants. This will adversely affect the functioning of the hostels,” another officer said.

In the State, there are about 2,400 Social Welfare Hostels meant for students from Scheduled Castes, 1,400 Tribal Welfare hostels (including residential) for Scheduled Tribes, and about the same number of BC Welfare hostels catering to students from Backward Classes.

With increased cost from the seventh cylinder onwards, each hostel will now be forced to spend a minimum of Rs.75,000 per annum extra on cooking gas. The issue has been brought to the notice of the district Collectors, who in turn have written to the State government seeking direction.