One of the flagship programmes of the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance government, led by Narendra Damodardas Modi is the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana, which was launched on May 1, 2016 with a target to give 5 crore free Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) connection by March 2019. This programme claims to have reached the target of 10 crore connections including 4 crore free to poor women were given in last four years. However, for once the nation needs not seek the response of the schemes as they were in shock as the price of domestic 14.2 kg LPG cylinder has breached the Rs 1,000 mark while the commercial one is sold at Rs 1,300 in several places across the country including Shillong.
The scheme aims at helping the people belonging to the Below the Poverty Line segment of society, who struggle like Modi’s mother did with smoke emitting from cooking on firewood or cow dung, as the LPG connections were given mostly to rich and affluent class. According to Modi, LPG is the cleanest and most easily available source of energy that is giving women a healthier lifestyle, saving them time, helping them financially and saving the environment.
On the contrary, increase in price of domestic LPG cylinders in the city is burning a hole in the common man’s pocket. Currently, domestic LPG cylinders are sold for over Rs 1000 in the city and many residents are surprised by the sudden hike.
Also many say that the subsidy which they receive from the government for the LPG cylinders is not regular as it comes once in a few months.
Unlike domestic petrol and diesel prices, which are decided on a daily basis, the price of domestic LPG is revised every month. The base price and levies apart, the transportation cost from the bottling plant to the retail outlets is said to be reflected in the price of gas cylinders.
Just like the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY), a financial inclusion program of Government which was launched by Modi on 15 August 2014 which latter turned out to be a nightmare for the account holders who struggled to maintain the minimum balance and ended up paying from their saving. The LPG stove was the most feared household item in the society as it required special precautions for its proper usage and now the shocking high price has added to the fear. Many women still refuse to apply for cylinders for domestic use as cooking gas.
Modi launched a Rs 8,000 crore scheme to provide 5 crore free LPG connections to poor families as he attacked previous governments for just paying lip service to reducing poverty. However, both the central government and the Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) failed to keep a check on the safety norms to be maintained by the distributors and the consumers across India.
In a fatal incident a 50-year-old man and his son were killed in a fire that broke out due to a leaking LPG cylinder in their shanty in a South Delhi area, on April 29, 2017 at around 8:30 pm. The deceased, identified as Vasudev, and his son, Arjun, 18, were living in Srinivaspuri area near Lajpat Nagar, Delhi. They hailed from Bihar’s Katihar district. According to Delhi Police, the incident took place when the father and son duo- both working as labourers — were cooking their food.
Some neighbours broke into the burning shanty and rescued them but they had already suffered 90 per cent burn injuries. They were rushed to the Safdarjung Hospital where they succumbed to their injuries the next day.
Similar casualties due to leakage of LPG cylinder are common across India where there is a total absence of standardized checking of defective cylinders, except by pouring water into the valve guard before delivering the cylinders. If bubbles are seen, it is taken that there is a leakage in the LPG cylinder and the distributor simply changes the rubber washer in the valve and delivers the same cylinder.
Also the home delivery service, which is supposed to be compulsory, one can see that both the empty and filled cylinders are being rolled in the streets, not by the consumers alone but even by the Agency’s staff, not worrying about the damage this to the cylinder which poses dangers to the consumers and the company alike. Such official staff of the Agency should be immediately sacked, and should also be held liable to be arrested.
There is storage of the re-filled cylinder, in most cases, particularly in Meghalaya and the godowns are in the midst of the residential areas, whereas they are supposed to be at the outskirts of residential areas for safety purposes.
During the distribution process, the pickup carriers with their load of LPG cylinders are parked at the main road, choking the flow of vehicles. Also, in many locations, the refilling are taking place near the schools, even during school hours, posing dangers to the young students in case there is an explosion. On April 29, 2017, one of the pickup of LPG cylinders, bearing registration no. ML 05M 0262 broke its axel near Barik point and hit on the wall. If this had occurred during school hours or office hours, one can imagine what could be the casualty.
The issues of rash driving by the pick-up trucks for the LPG Cylinders is most common in the city, as they have special preferences, hence, there is no checking for such vehicles, and most of the drivers are taking advantage of this putting public safety at risk.
Talking about the safety and precautions, one cannot fail to witness the mushrooming of fast food and junk food outlets at every nook and corner which is unchecked by any authority including the local power. Such vendors not only defy the Fire and Explosive Act by openly using LPG stoves, unchecked quality of edible oils and other ingredients which endangers the life of the consumers. Also, many unfamiliar fruits and herbs are openly sold.
In the absence of cultivation in the state, the district administration also fails to check on the quality of all essential commodities being imported. The quality of food items ranging from biscuits to fruits, milk to tonics is unknown to the consumer in the absence of a laboratory to check all this in the state. The state government is handicapped when it comes to controlling and monitoring food products in the state.
It is time the District Administration takes notice of such practices of delivering the LPG cylinders in the city, where the public safety is at stake. With the cost of each cylinder having risen it has once again made LPG cylinders an item which is only affordable by the affluent, and the free cylinder is now a show piece in the house of the other section of the society.