LPG Gas woes deepen as people cook electric

PM says govt could consider asking for India to increase quota

The government may be trying to promote more electric cars but its LPG consumer card policy has instead lead to increased sales and use of electrical appliances for cooking.

The people are doing so out of sheer desperation when they don’t get LPG gas cylinders.

There is increasing feedback showing that the LPG card system for all its good intentions and cumbersome to get LPG gas.

Sumjay a private employee whose father from his village in Pemagatshel was seriously ill in the JDWNRH hospital in Thimphu ran out of cooking gas. To compound his problems he had relatives from the village to help his father. He recounted a nightmarish experience of having to use electric appliances for all cooking purposes.

had clearly said that, ‘It is the prerogative of the government to declare and grant fiscal incentives.’

The former DPT government in its appeal to the Supreme Court on the tax case in 2011 had argued that if it did not have the right to impose taxes then it would also have to withdraw all the fiscal incentives given to boost the private sector.

Lyonpo said those incentives were the 2010 Fiscal Incentives or tax exemptions

Karma Tshering Wangchuck a UNDP employee said he was forced to use an electric cooker for a whole month due to unavailability of LPG gas.

A graduate Karma who works in a furniture shop in Pamtsho, Thimphu said, “I don’t have a card and currently I am using an electrical appliance to cook. I usually eat out when the power goes off.”

An employee in a private firm in Thimphu Phuntsho Dorji (35) said “I have onlyone gas cylinder and now I more worried because from next month my wife is being transferred to Trashigang. I don’t know how she is going to get a new LPG Gas with the current restrictions.”

Shops in Thimphu have reported increased sales of electrical cooker items like curry cooker, induction heater etc.

There are several other similar stories of people having to use other means of cooking their food in the face of an artificial LPG shortage.

The owner of R. Penjore said that four to five curry cookers are being sold every day. Buti a shopkeeper in Sabzi Bazar said she has got increased number of people coming for purchasing induction heaters.

Another shopkeeper Pema Dhendup said that these days he noticed that 10 to 20 electrical cooking appliances were being sold in a day which was an increase compared to the past.

In the 18th meet the press conference the Minister for Economic Affairs Lyonpo Norbu Wangchuk said that after five days of visits to the Mothithang BOD he had managed to solve the problem of long lines with a token system and additional desks.

While people acknowledge and appreciate the minister’s efforts in solving the line problem at one BOD there appears to be more fundamental problems with the consumer card system.

A major issue can be noticed in the early morning hours at the Regional Trade and Industry Office where people can be seen congregating from 5 am onwards for getting an additional LPG gas on their consumer card. The office opens only at 9 am.

However, according to the RTIO officials only 15 new gas tokens are issued in a day for new BOD LPG gas cylinders for the whole of Thimphu. The majority of the people are turned away leading to frustration among the people assembled there.

Moreover each book is entitled to only one additional gas cylinder every six years. This has ensured in effect that newly married couples looking for an additional cylinder, growing families and new migrants coming into Thimphu find it difficult to get gas cylinders.

During the meet the press one suggestion given was to go for the more expensive and bigger commercial gas compared to the normal cylinders.

Hotels and restaurants have been using this commercial cylinder for a while but here too there are problems of supply and long queues.

Ama restaurant owner Yeshi said, “We used the commercial LPG cylinders but it is difficult to exchange and we have to wait in long lines and sometimes we have to go back empty handed as the supply is not enough.” She said that while ordinary households may somehow manage with electrical cookers a restaurant like hers completely depends on gas cylinders.

The rule of getting only one cylinder exchanged every 10 days has also made it difficult and more inconvenient to get gas.

Many people are still unaware about the consumer card system only to be turned away from gas exchange depots. There are also many cases of people unable to exchange gas after losing their cards or misplacing it.

The LPG cylinder problem in not just confined to Thimphu but also present in other parts of Bhutan.

Dema (36) who is a teacher in Phuntsholing said “I have a family of five members and we have two cylinders but now we use electrical cookers more often and we keep LPG gas for emergencies.”

Pema a resident of Bartsham in Trashigang, over the phone explained that her family owned only red gas cylinders which are difficult to refill and therefore her family relied more on curry cookers though it is tough during continuous power black outs in her Gewog.

In past there have been reports of shortages of LPG gas in various Dzongkhags.

However, the card system introduced throughout Bhutan’s urban areas have done little to reduce the shortage as people across Dzongkhags continue to face shortages with the recent instance being in Samtse as people returned home with empty cylinders.

The Prime Minister Lyonchhen Tshering Tobgay said that Bhutan gets only a limited amount of subsidized gas quota of 700 metric tonnes a month from India. He said that the government is considering a request to the Government of India to increase this quota to meet the cylinder shortages.

He said in the recent years there was an increasing shortage of LPG cylinders as more people moved to urban areas and also as more people in the Gewogs switched to LPG gas.

The PM said that the government must also do a better job of making people aware of the alternative of using commercial gas cylinders.

Lyonchhen also said that it has to be ensured that the Gas cylinder distributors were lifting their entire subsidized gas quota from India as there were reports of them not lifting their full quota.

On the LPG card system he said the question to be asked is if the card system is the problem or the shortage and distribution of gas.

The Trade Department of the Ministry of Economic Affairs has taken the lead role in introducing the card system with the aim of preventing the use of subsidized gas cylinders for commercial purposes.

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