Lack of clarity on rate of non-subsidised cylinders and type of refills causes confusion
For consumers in the city, there were more questions than answers as they tried to come to terms with the government’s decision to impose a six-cylinder-a-year-cap on subsidised cooking gas for households.
Making it difficult, even for distributors for much part of the day, was the lack of clarity and communication on various issues, particularly the rate of non-subsidised cylinders and the type of refills.
As per the government announcement, which came into force on Friday, “Any number of cylinders will be available over and above the cap of six cylinders a year at market rate.”
“As consumers we are in the dark,” said consumer activist T. Sadagopan, while pointing out that the number of cylinders being supplied to consumers is consistently on the decline. From a situation of plenty, a few years ago, the supplies were subsequently restricted using the mandatory 21-day gap between supplies of two refills.
Operational reasons also contributed and effectively not more than nine cylinders were supplied per household. Six cylinders a year, he said, were just not enough for a household. “What is the alternative? The power situation is bad and families with two cylinders are not eligible for PDS kerosene,” he said.
Officials of state-owned oil marketing companies and cooking gas distributors, however, said consumer reaction to the decision was muted. “They will react only when the pocket is hit,” an official of Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) said, adding that detailed instructions could be expected, on an industry basis, in a few days.
The consumers, an official of Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL) said, were unlikely to be affected immediately as they would be eligible for three subsidised cylinders till March-end.
The households, on exhausting their quota, would be supplied the same 14.2 kg cylinder, but at a price of around Rs. 750 per refill. The price would be subject to monthly revision, depending on international fuel prices, and since it is meant for use only by households, the excise duty exemption was expected to continue, the official said.
There is no value-added tax on domestic LPG in Tamil Nadu. Commercial cylinders (19 kg), on which excise duty and value-added tax are levied, cannot be supplied to domestic consumers as the focus is on faster turnaround of the equipment. From the consumer’s point of view, commercial cylinders would be expensive.
S. Kiran, a resident of Perambur, said: “It will be difficult for six of us to manage with just six cylinders a year. I am worried as I’ve used up five cylinders so far. I am thinking of using the induction stove and electric cooker more often to reduce usage of cooking gas.”
While this would increase electricity tariff bills, many residents said there was no other choice if the government decided to implement the decision.
Both IOC and BPCL instructed their distributors on Friday to insist on domestic gas consumer cards while supplying cylinders and make an entry in it before getting the customer’s signature. The card, a blue book, has details of cylinder supplies made. Distributors were also asked to maintain the cash memos.
Chennai Area president of All India Indane Distributors Association, A. Ramachandran, said these measures were intended to avoid disputes over the number of cylinders supplied. Most of the enquiries from customers, he said, were about the price of the non-subsidised cylinder.
(With inputs from K. Lakshmi)