Poor dealer-customer ratio adds to LPG consumer miseries

Poor dealer-customer ratio adds to LPG consumer miseries

Even as the oil marketing companies (OMCs) are registering customers for Direct Benefit Transfer of LPG (DBTL) in Kashmir, their failure to increase number of dealerships in the Valley is impeding the job under Pahal scheme.

Under the central government launched DBTL scheme, every time a customer books a cylinder, the government will transfer Rs 568 (or the amount of subsidy) to his bank account so that the money would be there in the account before gas reaches his homes.

However to avail the benefits the customers have to submit bank details and requisite documents at their respective gas agencies. But, the little number of distributors insufficient to cater to around 10 lakh customers in Kashmir has become a cause of inconvenience for the consumers as they have to wait in long queues for hours in chill to follow the procedure.

 “I had to wait for a whole day to submit documents for availing benefits under DBTL. It is only in Kashmir that such inconvenience is caused to LPG customers submitting documents at gas agencies; whereas elsewhere in the country adequate number of dealerships are in place to provide hassle free services to cooking gas consumers,” Muhammad Ayoub, a resident of Chanapora, said.

Not only is the submission of documents a problem, post-floods the LPG consumers in Kashmir have been craving for home delivery of gas.

For last year two years, the stakeholders in Kashmir have been pitching for increasing number of LPG distributors to cater to the requirement. However OMCs have failed to mitigate the sufferings of consumers. 

In 2012, after public outcry and subsequent protests in the summer capital, Jammu and Kashmir High Court had directed that “effective measures should be taken to ensure proper distribution of LPG in Kashmir.” However, in blatant violation of the court orders, the government and oil companies failed to implement the direction.

Although, the Directorate of Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution had identified 77 places in Kashmir province where new gas agencies were to be commissioned in order to mitigate suffering of LPG consumers.

OMCs operating in the state have failed to appoint new distributors as few gas dealers continue to monopolize the trade, leaving LPG customers in Kashmir fuming against the oil companies for failing to increase the tally of distributors here.

“The oil companies have miserably failed to increase the number of distributorships even two years after High Court had directed them. Though they have been time and again asking customers to comply with their guidelines, but there is hardly any service being provided by gas agencies to customers” said a senior official of CAPD.

He added that despite number of reminders by the government the oil companies are using “dilly-dally tactics in adding new gas agencies.”

 “There is nexus between oil companies and dealers who sabotage any move of appointing new distributors as it would eat away their sales. At present LPG distributors earns Rs 44 per cylinder as their margin, which means higher the number of customers higher is returns,” he said.

At present there are only around 50 LPG dealers in Kashmir to cater to around 10 Lakh cooking gas consumers which is considered to be the reason for the LPG crisis often being felt in the Valley as the inadequate number of dealers is not able to suffice to the requirements of consumers.

Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited (HPCL), Bharat Petroleum Limited (BPL) and Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) distribute LPG in the Valley. To mention, the HPCL holds 70 percent of LPG business in Kashmir.

Talking to Greater Kashmir, Deputy Manager Sales, HPCL, Zubair Banday said: “We have advertised for 33 distributorships but unfortunately out these, 20 spots where distributors are to be appointed are subject matter of litigations. However despite this issue, in coming days we will advertise for appointing further distributors to lessen the burden on existing agencies.”

Sales Manager, IOCL, Rakesh Roshan stated that IOCL has been appointing new distributorships in Kashmir. “In past few months we have commissioned four new agencies at Magam, Langate, Sopore, and Padgampora. In coming days further more distributors will be appointed.”