Directive to restrict PDS kerosene fuels queues at agencies

The Civil Supplies and Consumer Protection Department's recent directive to LPG distributors to verify and stamp the ration cards at the time of booking refill has put domestic LPG consumers in much hardship.

Long queues ofconsumers are witnessed at almost every gas distribution agency office in the city as the sudden directive comes without any prior announcement from the district authorities. According to a senior official in the Department, distributors have been asked to verify and stamp the status of the LPG consumers with respect to the number of cylinders held by them on their ration cards. The move was apparently aimed at preventing consumers with double cylinders from drawing kerosene from the PDS.

Sources said the department has deputed its staff to all agencies to verify whether the ration cards have been stamped. However, given the shortage of staff, long queues are seen at offices of gas agencies. Some consumers have been rushing to agencies in the early morning to secure a place at the top of the queue. A few distributors have even started issuing tokens to customers to regulate the crowd. Many customers complain that they have been forced to wait in long queues for several hours. “I have been waiting for over two hours and was forced to closed down my tailoring shop for half-a-day to get the stamping,” said G.Chitra. Many point out that their ration cards have already been stamped and complain that they were being hassled needlessly. Besides, they argue, what is the need for the customers with white colour ration cards to get the stamping when they were not eligible to draw kerosene.

M.Sekaran, president of the Federation of Consumer and Service Organisations, who has sent a representation to the Chief Minister seeking an order to stop the process, says that genuine customers who book LPG refills only once in 40 days are being needlessly suspected. Instead of asking LPG consumers to get the stamping, the government could instead consider issuing coupons door-to-door to ration card holders who are eligible to draw PDS kerosene. This would also help in eliminating bogus cards and misuse. LPG consumers were already facing untold hardship as most distributors take bookings for refills only after 21 days from the previous supply though oil companies continue to claim that no such restriction was in force. It takes another 15 days to deliver the refill. The restrictions were apparently aimed at preventing misuse of domestic LPG for commercial purpose. The latest directive is only adding insult to injury, he observed.

When contacted, the senior officer of the Civil Supplies and Consumer Protection Department said efforts would be made to post additional staff to clear the rush at the gas agencies.