New restrictions by government on supply of LPG cylinders has come with unusual hardships for aam people like Rishi Kumar, who are facing unfriendly dealers trying to make more money with each new connection.
Kumar's visit to an Indian Oil dealer's office in north Delhi's Badli area in September for new connection resulted in denial of the service on the ground that he did not have a ration card. As per the Indian Oil website, ration card is one of many documents required to apply for a connection.
He then ran from pillar to post and found a cylinder delivery boy who assured to get him a connection. Two months later, he got a call from the boy seeking Rs. 6,500 for the connection. The reason for the high cost was that apart from one cylinder, he would have to buy a gas-stove, a gas trolley and a regulator.
When asked, a person at the dealer, Kamla Karan gas agency, said buying everything is mandatory and new connections would be available only from January 10. As per the website, a new connection with single cylinder only should not cost more Rs. 1,850.
A visit by this reporter to another gas dealer in north Delhi did not reflect a better picture. "Every time I come they ask for a new document to get a gas cylinder," said a daily-wager Ram Singh, who claimed to have visited the dealer thrice in the last one month. Another person claimed that the agency was refusing to accept the form saying the oil companies have not issued new connections.
The harassment is not confined to Delhi alone as the government has decided to limit the number of subsidized LPG cylinders in a year to six and transfer the subsidy directly into bank accounts of the beneficiary.
The Indian Oil - biggest LPG cylinder supplier in India - has decided to switch to direct cash transfer in 51 districts from February, thereby making the requirement of having a bank account compulsory to receive the subsidy amount. Delhi's two districts -north-east and north-west - would get covered. Other oil companies are expected to follow suit.
The Consumer Affair ministry's consumer helpline in the last two months have recorded maximum complaints against the LPG cylinder dealers for refusing to issue new connections. "For the last four months I am visiting my gas dealer to get a new connection but they refuse to accept my form on one pretext of another," said Manoj Shivshanker Chavan of Maharashtra, in his complaint to the consumer helpline.
Arun Punnapra, who shifted to Trivandrum few months back, got a LPG connection after paying an agent Rs. 2,500 extra. His month long effort to get a connection from dealers of two different oil companies failed as they insisted on documents which were not required. "I was first asked ration card and then residential certificate from a municipal body and so on. The agent delivered the cylinder in a day, shockingly," he said, in his post on an RTI forum.
A petroleum ministry official, however, assured of looking into the complaints.