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HindustanTimes Fri,19 Sep 2014

Strange mixture: Want gas in Kotkapura? Must buy bhujia

Raghbir Singh Brar , Hindustan Times   Faridkot, March 24, 2013
First Published: 15:38 IST(24/3/2013) | Last Updated: 15:40 IST(24/3/2013)

You pretty well can't cook anything else to eat, if you don't buy this snack.

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If you want a Bharat Gas LPG cylinder from its monopoly dealer in Kotkapura, you have to first purchase a pack of bhujia (a crisp Rajasthani snack made of gram flour and spices) for Rs. 36. No bhujia, no cylinder.

Getting the spicy item is not the end of feeling hot under the collar. Now you enter a long queue, as Geena Gas Service sends a messenger 3 kilometres to collect all the receipts (don't expect any for the tidbit). There is no home delivery. “All requisition for new cylinder or refill is at the agency's warehouse at Warring village,” said Chamkaur Singh of Bir Sikhan Wala village.

Your registration number is passed on a note to an employee who goes to the dealer's main office in Faridkot and collects the computer-generated receipt slips for multiple customers.

You get the slip and off he goes again for the next round. “A waste of time,” said Chamkaur.

“The agency can book now and deliver the cylinder the next day easily but it prefers to harass the consumers,” said another customer. “It does not entertain any request for delivering the slips to customers before they visit the warehouse with empty cylinder.”

Pargat Singh of Hari Ke Kalan village in Muktsar district had to wait an hour only to find that his subscription has been closed. “Visit the main office to know why,” the employee at the warehouse tells the man who has travelled 20 km to the place.

“Sometimes we are forced to buy bhujia and sometimes tea,” said Pargat Singh. “When we protest, the dealer gives it up for a day,” said Sukhmander Singh, block president of the Bharti Kisan Union (Sidhupur-Ekta). “For a subsidised cylinder, people are charged Rs. 470 instead of Rs. 434. The extra money is for the bhujia, while the receipt remains for Rs. 434.”

The dealer delivers hundreds of cylinders everyday and it's not hard to imagine his profit from the illegal sale of bhujia. “We sell bhujia because the gas company has forced us to,” said Gurmeet Singh, owner of Geena Gas Agency. “We accept only cheques and issue computer-generated slips, since there's a cap on the number of subsidised cylinders a family can have in a year. We don't have the online system at the warehouse,” he added, “but we do our best to bring the slips to customers.”

District food and supplies controller (DFSC) Jaspreet Singh Kahlon could not be contacted on his mobile phone and repeated calls made to him to seek his version went unanswered.

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