LPG crisis rocks Assembly

Govt Non-Committal To Increase Cap; Opposition Stages Walkout

MUDDASIR ALI/ABID BASHIR

Srinagar, Oct 3: Even as the crisis emerging from the cap on the LPG rocked the Legislative Assembly here Wednesday, the State Government remained non-committal to increase subsidy on the fuel and provide relief to people.
As the House met this morning, legislators from various parties created uproar over the matter forcing the Speaker to suspend the normal business and allow debate on the adjournment motion brought by Opposition Peoples Democratic Party, NPP and a National Conference legislator.
The Finance Minister Abdur Rahim Rather said there were only two ways to deal with the situation - either to cut down on non-plan budget including salary, pension and scholarship for students and financial assistance to widows, orphans and handicapped persons or to take up the matter with Government of India for having a lenient view on J&K.
He said if Government takes a decision to provide six more cylinders on subsidized rates to consumers as demanded by legislators, it would have a financial implication of around Rs 520 crore on State exchequer. As per the new policy adopted by Government of India, a household would get only six LPG cylinders in a year on subsidized rates and they would require to purchase additional cylinders on market rates.
“I am only putting the situation before the House,” Rather said. “Let the House take a decision on what should be done,” the Finance Minister replied to the discussion over cap on LPG and its impact on common man. However, Rather’s statement evoked criticism from the President of Opposition PDP, Mehbooba Mufti.
“This is a drama. You have a house in Dubai and politicians are looting the money coming to the State under various schemes,” she alleged. “There is no accountability on crores of rupees of additionalities for past four years and you are talking to stop the pension and financial assistance to widows and aged citizens,” Mehbooba said.
Mehbooba along with her party legislators staged a walkout from the House. Reacting sharply to Mehbooba’s allegations, Rather dared her to make a statement on the accusations.
“It is very sad and unfortunate that she (Mehbooba) is leveling allegations without any bases and misleading the House,” Rather reacted. “If she has a case, she should lodge an FIR or complaint with State Accountability Commission,” Rather said.
“She will have to apologise,” Rather continued. “It is very unfortunate that she is behaving irresponsibly.” Continuing his speech, Rather said he wanted to make clear that there is no gas shortage. “The issue is only about the cap,” he said.
He said the State consumes at least 15 lakh LPG cylinders a year.
He said at least 44 per cent State population was not affected by the decision. “This is the percentage of the population which uses only six or less cylinders during a year. But yes, the rest of the population will definitely suffer,” he said.
“State Government has no role in revising LPG rates. The decision was taken by the Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs,” Rather told the House.
Joining the chorus, senior NPP leader Harsh Dev Singh echoed Mehbooba’s view.
“The Government has thrown austerity measures out of window,” he said. “A minister is having a fleet of 50 vehicles,” he said and staged walkout along with his party members. They were followed by BJP legislators.
Earlier this morning, the PDP, BJP and NPP legislators started shouting slogans that State Government should increase the subsidy on LPG.
Amid noisy scenes and commotion, the Speaker suspended the normal business to discuss the LPG crisis.
Initiating the discussion, Choudhary Ramzaan of NC said the LPG cap would affect everybody.
“It is an unbearable attack on common man and it will make life miserable,” Ramzaan said.
He said the policy has hit people especially in rural areas where gas supply remains erratic, and the process started by the oil companies for registration of gas connections has only worsened the problem.
He demanded that the State Government should increase the subsidy on the LPG to 12 cylinders.
Mehbooba termed the situation arising out of reduction on subsidy on gas a serious matter.
She said in absence of regular power supply people in all the three regions of the State depend on LPG for cooking, heating and lighting.
“We all know how bad the power position is,” she said. “Kerosene goes into black marketing. There is no other option for the people to sustain their lives.”
Mehbooba said the legislators from the treasury benches were raising hue and cry on the issue.
“It is you people who have blindly supported the Government to implement the anti-people decision,” she pointed towards the treasury benches. “Whom are you criticizing on the reduction of subsidy on gas and hike in fuel rates? It is you people who allowed burden on people. Why are you shouting now? You are part of the Government (in New Delhi) and you are now creating a drama,” Mehbooba said.
She alleged that such was the extent of Government insensitivity that they agreed that an LPG cylinder should be sold at Rs 960.
She was interrupted by the Minister for Law and Parliamentary Affairs and NC legislator, Ali Muhammad Sagar. “We are people’s representatives and we have every right to raise the issue,” he said.
“This issue is shaping into a crisis,” Mehbooba responded.
She asked the State Government to take cue from other States like New Delhi and increase subsidy on number of gas cylinders.
NPP’s Harshdev Singh said Government’s silence on the burning issue was unfortunate.
“Government should find ways and means to provide relief to people,” he said. “They have powers to take decisions.”
He said that in the name of registration of gas connections, people were facing harassment.
CPI-M legislator MY Tarigami asked the State Congress legislators to support people’s aspirations on the issue.
He said the State Government was in “slumber”. “It is least to say,” Tarigami said.
Chaman Lal Gupta too expressed concern on the issue.
PDP’s Nizam-ud-Din Bhat said: “This government has proved itself as anti-people by maintaining silence on LPG cap.”
He warned that ruling National Conference and Congress would have to face political consequences at grassroots level if they did not take decision to provide relief to people.
BJP’s Ashok Khajuria said Government was insensitive to the problems faced by people and it would have to bear the consequences.
Independent MLA Engineer Rashid said during campaigning for Assembly elections, Omar Abdullah had promised to cut the LPG price by Rs 50.
“What happened to that promise?” he asked.
He said Government was coming with a “lame excuse” that they do not have resources to provide subsidy on LPG.
“These white elephants, these ministers, should stop consuming fuel on their vehicles for trips and visits to constituencies and other places. Legislators, bureaucrats and officials should cut down expenditure. The money can be pooled to provide relief to people,” he suggested.
PDP’s Abdul Rehman Veeri said people are threatening to launch an agitation if Government did not act.
“The State has suffered on economic front for last 20 years and now you are responding by putting more pressure on people’s pockets,” he said. “The role of the Government is unfortunate.”
He said there were 1.28 lakh families without ration card. “Where from will they get documents to get their connections registered,” he asked.
Hakeem Muhammad Yasin asked the Government to take an immediate decision to provide relief to people.
National Conference’s Mir Saif-ullah asked the Government to implement austerity measures announced earlier in letter and spirit and spend the savings on providing relief to people.
“It is not only important to talk about the issue but to see that Government implements the decision taken by the House.”
Congress’ Sharief Niaz and Ghulam Muhammad Mir counted the number of initiatives like MGNREGA and PMGSY launched by the Government of India to provide livelihood to people.
“It is easy to criticize Government but it is very difficult to take bold decisions,” he said. “Only Congress has the guts to take bold decisions.”
He demanded that State Government should mobilize internal resources to provide relief to people.
Another Congress legislator, Abdul Majid Wani, called for strengthening the monitoring mechanism to check black-marketing of LPG cylinders and Kerosene.

Lastupdate on : Wed, 3 Oct 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Wed, 3 Oct 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Thu, 4 Oct 2012 00:00:00 IST




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