Use of cooking gas norm flouted, refills for households delayed

CHENNAI, JUNE 16. The norm prescribing the use of subsidised cooking gas cylinders only in households continue to be flouted by commercial establishments, restaurants and road-side eateries in the city.

The practice, domestic cooking gas consumers allege, is causing delay getting refill supplies. Such complaints pour-in from areas where more restaurants and `fast-food' outlets are found.

Charging the distributors with diverting the subsidised products to `others', they say, ``it is common to see delivery boys supplying cylinders during early hours of the day to restaurants and tea-shops''. While the alleged connivance of the distributors could not be discounted in a few cases, in others, the distributors have little control over the delivery boys.

Yet another aspect bothering them is the popularisation of LPG as automobile fuel, by which many motorists fuel their vehicles with the subsidised cylinders.

Though a Central guideline allowing the use of LPG in motor vehicles prohibits the use of replaceable cylinders, motorists continue to violate it in the absence of filling stations.

In fact, dealers of LPG conversion kits for vehicles have also started importing tanks designed specifically to store the product. Moreover, nothing much is known about the status of the guideline in the State.

But, it is the vast price difference that is driving the motorists and the commercial establishments to use the subsidised products. While domestic cooking gas cylinders of 14.2 kg supplied by the national oil companies is priced at Rs.228.65 each, cooking gas cylinders for commercial use, of 19 kgs, is sold at Rs.432.45.

Ironically, the release of new cooking gas connections across-the-counter-a big boon to domestic consumers, is yet another reason for the problem. Availability of cooking gas cylinders in plenty and possession of more than one (double cylinder) connection is cited as the reason.

On their part, the oil companies a few months ago jointly in association with the police conducted `raids' on such commercial establishments and seized around 500 cylinders. Several of the domestic consumers, in turn, appealed to the authorities to return the cylinders as they had rented it out, at a premium.

Further, the oil companies have also been underscoring the need for distributors to hard-sell the commercial LPG market.

Meanwhile, many Indane cooking distributors say they are facing problems over shortfall in cylinder regulators. With more residents being added to the city, distributors are finding it difficult to provide fresh regulators even in cases involving replacement of damaged ones, a potential safety hazard.