A subdued demand for cooking gas that set in after the government decided to limit the number of subsidised cylinders a household will get in a year has led to a scenario where refills are delivered within hours of the booking.
With such a situation prevailing in the State, particularly in major consumption centres like Chennai, many households are managing with just one cylinder despite having a double bottle connection. Their argument, according to oil industry sources, is why block money on the second cylinder when refills booked in the forenoon are supplied by evening.
A sea change from the crises of the past when the backlog of supplies to be made by distributors even extended beyond a month sometimes, the current picture is one of comfort never experienced in many years by customers. It is also a contrast from the times when households possessed multiple connections, including from more than one public sector oil company. One of the factors for the low offtake is the blocking of the multiple connections, sources said. But the key reason attributed by sources across all three companies, IOC, BPCL and HPCL, is the cap announced in September last under which only six cylinders were to be supplied per household every year. Subsequently, the Centre in January increased it to nine refills.
With the customer emphasis on judicious use of the refills, as official of a company puts it, the diversion of the heavily subsidised product, either to commercial establishments be it hotels, tea stalls or for use in automobiles, has come down. “It is too early to say diversion has been curbed, but what is certain is households want to stretch the use of a cylinder,” an Indane distributor said.
While on one hand plenty of supply is being made by the oil company, on the other it was getting difficult to generate empty cylinders. “Sometimes, the truck has to wait at our godown after unloading full cylinders till our delivery boys supply and return with empty cylinders,” the distributor said.
This is also evident from the bookings. The orders placed for Indane domestic refills in and around Chennai dropped to around 44,000 in the first quarter as against about 55,000 in the corresponding period last fiscal. The bookings are slowing picking up and were about 47,000 last month, sources said.
Things were no different for BPCL with sources saying after four months of negative growth, there were signs of positive growth in July.