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Making cooking gas conveniently available

The system of issuing subsidized liquid petroleum gas (LPG) cylinders at every gas station has always been chaotic. There is always so much rush, traffic jam and confusion before people finally settle down in queue.

But the queue gets longer and the waiting time gets even longer. The most unfortunate part is, at the end, most of them have to go back empty handed. Understandably, people get disappointed that they have wasted their time; afraid that they would be late to office; worried that they have no means to cook meals at home; frustrated that the system is not fair and finally angry with the government for failing to address the problem.

Such problem may appear quite trivial. But it is not – especially, when it impacts the daily life of people in ways more than we can imagine. It can fuel family break-up, loss of job and most importantly loss of trust and faith in the government. Therefore, it is imperative that the government should find a solution to such a chronic problem. In this regard, I would like to suggest the following measures to be considered;

(1)The government should subsidize the price of the non-subsidized LPG cylinders to narrow the gap with the price of subsidized LPG cylinders. The price difference between the subsidized and non-subsidized LPG cylinders may be reduced from the current level of Nu. 255 to around Nu. 100. This marginal difference in price will attract many consumers to switch over to current non-subsidized LPG cylinders to avoid the rush and hassles associated with subsidized LPG cylinders.

This may raise the question of government’s affordability to do so. But there are ways to counter balance the financial burden. Instead of government’s pledge to do away with 5% tax on telephone vouchers or to launch the proposed Soongjuen project, it would make much more sense to subsidize the non-subsidized LPG cylinders.

Cooking gas has become our basic need in urban centers but not telephone vouchers. We can do away with telephone vouchers. But we cannot do away with cooking gas. The government must be more pragmatic. It is a matter of prioritization! As a footnote, it may be mentioned that the government should reconsider the proposed plan of launching free Soongjuen facility to general public. Firstly, it is not one of our most basic needs. Secondly, it will cost government a lot of money. Thirdly, it has the downside of spoiling people to waste their time on useless endless gossip that could have many undesirable ramifications on the harmony of our small close-knit society.

(2)It should be mandatory for both public and private institutions and other organizations to surrender their subsidized LPG cylinders. Then all senior civil/public servants including armed forces, CEOs of all public and private corporations, the wealthier business community and other well off private citizens must be encouraged to surrender their subsidized LPG cylinders.

I challenge the current cabinet ministers to start the ball rolling by setting the example! Ironically, the main factors that contribute to the shortage of subsidized LPG cylinders is because most of the members of this section of our society hold more than 3-4 numbers of such cylinders. It is a matter of common sense that subsidized LPG cylinders are meant for the underprivileged and not for the privileged section of our society.

It is the moral responsibility of this privileged section of society to come forward to surrender their subsidized PLG cylinders. It calls for basic human decency to let such benefit go to those who deserve it most. After all, how much the cost difference of Nu. 255.00 would mean to this section of our society? It is just a matter of awareness and a small realization. No human being is bad at the core. It just requires a little understanding and some nudging.

(3)The issue of deflection of subsidized LPG cylinders to other parts of neighboring Indian states has come up before. There is no guarantee that it will not happen again. The concerned authority should initiate strict and vigilant monitoring on the import and issuance of subsidized gas cylinders within the country. There should be frequent change in the dealing officials to oversee this matter to avoid collusion.

(4)The Department of Trade could do something to pull up the agents to improve their system of issuing LPG cylinders. May be, they should be required to hire more part time workers to open more point of sale during the rush hours to reduce the waiting hours. Perhaps, they could immediately issue tokens to the customers on first come first basis according to the number of cylinders that had arrived and sent back the rest. Why make others wait for many hours only to be sent back empty handed at the end.

I think it should not be very difficult to implement the above measures. It just needs the government to take the decision to reduce the price gap between subsidized and non-subsidized LPG cylinders.

This could be followed by government notifications, vigorous campaign in public forums and relentless advertisements in all newspapers and BBS. With the marginally price difference to pay, not only the privileged section of the society but many more who can afford will come forward to make a small sacrifice to solve this chaotic chronic problem that has been affecting the economically disadvantaged section of our society.

If that happens, the ultimate final cost to the government exchequer will be also quite minimum. Not anywhere close to what the state is spending on Hospitality and Entertainment of the cabinet ministers and other senior members of the government.

 

Contributed by 

Thayri Kaka

Thimphu

thayrikaka@gmail.com

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