One winter weekend my family had to pay a hefty price for my complacency. They braved two cold winter mornings and evenings without a warm heater. It was difficult for the electric heaters to maintain the same warmth that the Korean kerosene heaters provide. But without crude oil, our heater stood in the middle of the living room, idle. We could not buy it from the Bhutan Oil Distributors (BOD) as we had no coupon. I forgot to collect it from the Trade Office and no amount of search paid any dividend.
This is interesting. In Bhutan we cannot buy kerosene like other commodities. Petrol and other fuels are much easier to purchase. I have seen people at the fuel stations buying petrol or diesel and taking them in their jerry cans. When it comes to kerosene, the authorities go strict and monitor everything. At least they seem to do so. Kerosene is the domain of the poor people like us. The richer lots have no use for this third-grade crude oil. And that›s why we have people going wild. But do we even care how much people use other fuels? Who limits the quantity of fuel a car can burn?
Each person is limited to 50 liters of kerosene a month, during the cold months. He/she gets only 10 during the warmer months.
Now, let›s delve into this issue a little further. To avail kerosene coupons, one has to go to the Trade Office and wait in line. Waiting is become the norm of the day now and no one seems to mind it anymore. Earlier, the Trade officials gave us 5 coupons of 10 liters each (for 50 liters). But now (I do not understand why – maybe for economic reasons) they give only one 50-liter coupon. This is good, but mostly bad. Good, because now one has to take care of only one document. But here is the crux of the matter – when we go to buy our ‹quota› of kerosene, we need to part with the 50-liter coupon, irrespective of quantity we like to purchase. For example, if I buy only 30 liters (for storage and related reasons), I am forced to forego my remaining 20 liters. And here I a major problem, which is beyond the scope of this piece.
We live in a digital era and most of the things happen online. And I feel kerosene coupon/quota is something that can be handled easily online. When the government can afford to issue Security Clearance (NOC) online, what is a kerosene coupon? Is kerosene more important than the issuance of NOC? This year, RRCO has extended their trust to the taxpayers by allowing the people to file taxes online.
Allow a citizen to avail his coupon online – he may not need 50 liters at once. And accordingly allow him to customize the quantity he requires. We can always put a cap at 50 liters. That way we can avoid giving out 50-liter coupon when we actually collect only 25 liters.
We have no objections with the way the distribution is done right now. Just provide us online, hassle-free and efficient service.
By: Ngawang P Phuntsho
The writer works in an NGO and lives in Thimphu