Starting 1st January 2016, the Department of Trade (DoT), Ministry of Economic Affairs will be issuing an order to all the 20 Dzongkhags stating that each cardholder is entitled to one cylinder in a month.
There may be exceptions only if there is some emergency, otherwise, according to the ministry a family with seven to eight members can ‘live on one cylinder a month’.
With the issue of LPG shortages raised in the parliament and people standing in queues early morning, the ministry carried out an inspection and claimed to find out that people are ‘misusing’ the LPG quota.
Dophu Tshering, Officiating Director, DoT, said they have issued two cylinders per month but now what is happening is that people take advantage of the quota and out of the quota they keep one and then supply the other in restaurants and hotels. The Department, however, is yet to provide the figures, frequency and specifics of such misuse.
He claimed that during inspections and while interacting with people in the queue it was found that people were complaining about gas shortages but they were also found to be using it for commercial purposes.
He said, “People are ‘grossly misusing’ the card. Therefore, we came up with some interim measure from November 19. We personally issued an order stating that BoDs are allowed to issue only one cylinder in a month for each card holder”, adding that in one month of observation they found that there was no rush, no queue and there was lot of left over cylinders.
“The system is working better as firstly the queue is reduced, and secondly we received no complaint from customers on gas shortage. We issue 500 cylinders everyday and found the cylinders were not fully utilized”, he said.
In a one-month observation, he said that, now people have realized the value of the card and are very careful with the utilization of the card particularly on the date of issue and date of delivery.
In addition, he claimed that people have realized that this is the subsidy provided by the government for the common people and use it effectively. “People until now have never realized whereby they just buy and sell it to others but now they realize that the government is giving a subsidy,” he said.
Citing an example, he said that if the customers are issued with a cylinder on 24 Nov than he or she is allowed to get a new cylinder until 24th or 25th December.
He said, “We also have introduced this measure because we could determine the actual utilization of the LPG quota, and maybe in six months time, we might be able to determine exactly the quantity that has been consumed out of 700 metric tons and how much was left from the given quota.”
He said until now, they were not able to determine the exact quantity as people have been misusing but now they can determine the demand and can make out what really is required.
Emphasizing on the family with larger member, he said that, if a family consist of more than 11 to 12 members in family than they can go for a commercial cylinder.
He said, “Before all the hoteliers and restaurants didn’t go for commercial gas and instead they just had a show piece white cylinder but now after introducing one cylinder, their sale has increased though there was no demand of commercial cylinders in the past.”
“People are putting pressure in Mothithang depot but people can get LPG gas from Druk Petroleum and from Damchen Petroleum. In addition, we have an extension counter in Babesa from where the people can get LPG” he said.
He claimed that cylinders are now available at any given time and there is no rush in the depot.
However, a few families that this reporter talked to said that one cylinder in a month is not at all sufficient for the family and they are not happy with government’s decision in making it one cylinder in a month.
A mother Rinzin said, “Sometimes the Cylinder gets over in the middle of the month and we find it difficult to get a new cylinder.” She said that they sometimes need to borrow their neighbors and relatives gas cylinders.
“Now knowing the fact that each cardholder gets only one cylinder in a month, no one is ready to lend a cylinder and this decision doesn’t seem to be flexible”, said Pema a father.
Most of the feedback was that at least two cylinders are required in a month especially if the family has to do heavy cooking.
Tashi Wangchuk a corporate employee said the ground reality is that the ministry has made it so cumbersome to get gas that many people are now switching to other forms like electricity, which is why LPG demand may have gone down.
Many observers feel that the inability of the government to resolve the LPG issue will have negative political implications on the government given that LPG is an item used by the masses.