The trade department’s decision to lift subsidised LPG from the four thromdes starting next year received a lot of criticism both online and offline.
Disagreeing with the decision, netizens questioned the basis. One said the urban residents should receive the subsidy as they pay higher electricity tariff while rural people get subsidy on electricity. Another argued that with house rents taking a huge portion of the salary, those residing in the thromdes should receive the subsidised LPG.
There are others who laud the decision and suggested using electric appliances for cooking. “Should there be a subsidy, it should be on electricity,” one commented.
In response to the criticisms and number of queries raised on social media, the DoT, through a press release clarified that the intention behind discontinuing the supply of subsidised LPG was to address the shortage.
The shortages, according to DoT can be resolved by promoting the use of non-subsidised LPG among urban consumers diverting the subsidy to the rural and underprivileged consumers.
The initiative to make people voluntarily switch to non-subsidised LPG failed despite several measures including Citizen’s initiative- Our Gyenkhu program, appeal to ministers, agencies, private sector and affluent section of the society.
Some measures include freezing new subsidised LPG connections in all thromdes, recalling subsidised LPG cylinders from institutional users, introducing interchangeability of cylinders among dealers for easy access, discontinuation of home delivery for subsidised LPG cylinder and supporting the use of electric induction ovens as an alternative to reduce dependency.
Based on Poverty Analysis Report 2017, it was found out that poverty in rural areas, 11.9 percent is significantly higher than in urban areas, 0.8 percent.
The household poverty level in thromdes compared with other dzongkhags was found to be significantly low. Thimphu thromde has the least, 0.2 followed by Samdrupjongkhar, 0.5, Phuentsholing 0.7 and Gelephu 1.1.
The poverty rate was recorded highest in Dagana, 23.7, followed by Zhemgang 16.3 and Mongar (14).
Economic affairs minister, Loknath Sharma said that ministry has provided an adequate phase-out time of six months to make alternative arrangements to either switch or to opt for electric stoves. “The new reform is the outcome of several discussions from assembly and suggestions from social media. This is not a work of one day or one person.”
Meanwhile, Lyonchhen Dr Lotay Tshering during meet the press yesterday said that there was a genuine issue of urban poor and for those sections, the subsidised LPG will be made available even if it has to be home delivered.
“There is no one who cannot afford extra Nu 200. Standing in the queue at the depot will suffice the difference in price,” he said.
He said those who are unhappy with the new reform can get subsidised LPG from the rest of the dzongkhags. “If more consumers volunteered to surrender their LPG, we won’t be facing this issue.”
DoT assured that the department was working on strategies to ensure that the urban poor’s are not deprived of their existing subsidised LPG facilities.