Srinagar: Amid a massive crisis of LPG cylinders in the Kashmir Valley, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, who should lead by an example, enjoys multiple gas connections. It is ironic that when people have to wait for hours and sometime pay a hefty amount as bribe to get their LPG connections verified, the Chief Minister has three active gas connections under his name, all of them in Srinagar.
Jammu and Kashmir is currently struggling with a massive LPG shortage and has seen many protests through out the state over past couple of months. Locals allege that a nexus between gas dealers and agents operating in the market are taking consumers for a ride by asking them to pay more than Rs 1,500 for transfer or verification of documents.
After the cap on LPG was imposed by the central government, it was decided that a family will have only one gas connection. However, if there were different kitchens within the family, all will have one gas connection each, provided they prove have separate electricity connection and ration card.
More than 1,50,000 LPG connections of people enjoying double connection have been cancelled in Jammu since the verification of documents 'Know Your Customer' (KYC) started in Jammu and Kashmir. Meanwhile, the process is going on in the Kashmir Valley, where a majority of people have lost their documents or don’t have them at all.
Seventy-year-old Ghulam Mohammad Wani, who heads a family of 10, has hit the streets of Srinagar four times in a week to collect new registration papers, but the task is proving a difficult one as he refuses to pay a bribe. Fifty miles away, Anantnag resident Iqbal Ahmad Khan, a labourer, is equally perturbed, registering and getting a gas cylinder has proven very tough. "Every morning, thousands of people queue up to get a cylinder and we have to wait for hours to get a gas cylinder," says Khan.
The main reason for the LPG crisis is the number of dealers in the state. While the oil companies operating in the state have over the years increased their retail outlets for petrol and diesel manifold, they have miserably failed to expand the crucial LPG dealership network in the Calley for better distribution of cooking gas.
According to sources there are only 101 LPG dealers (43 in Kashmir and 58 in Jammu) to cater to around 25 lakh consumers. Sources further say that pre-2000 there were only 56 retail outlets of petroleum in Kashmir but during the last 12 years the number has swelled up to 203 outlets in the Valley. While the rest of the country enjoys home delivery of cooking gas throughout the year, getting a gas cylinder from a dealer in Kashmir is no less than winning a war.
LPG crisis had dominated the proceedings of the autumn session of the state legislature where Opposition parties had demanded that state government should increase the subsidy on gas.
After the centre imposed cap on subsidised gas cylinders, many state government decided to bear subsidy on three more gas cylinders. The Omar-led government had, however, dismissed the demand by saying that increasing the LPG cap would put enormous strain on the financial resources of the state.
The government has, however, approached the centre a number of times, pleading to increase the cap on gas cylinders because of winter when it needs more gas to prepare meals and warm water.