Thimphu residents, these days, have to be patient if they want to refill their Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) cylinders. Standing in long queue from early morning has become the norm. Many repeat the routine for several days without success.
Karma Tshering, one of the customers said he had been fourth time unlucky. “For the past three days, I had difficulty preparing meals at home. Although I use other electric cooking appliances, but with high electricity charges, LPG is the only solution,” he said.
“As far as I know, the dealers are supposed to issue one cylinder per person with one gas card, but I have noticed individuals coming with four to five cards,” he said. “This creates problem and the LGP depletes early. If the dealer follows the rule, then some part of the problem would be solved,” he added.
Another customer, Leki Yangzom said people use both POL app as well gas card to avail LPG and take at least two cylinders. “Concerned authorities should be present at the depot to reduce the problem.”
Most customers complain of dealers being biased, only entertaining customers they are acquainted with. Some wonder why mobile LPG service providers get quicker service.
Officiating Regional Director (ORD) of Regional Trade and Industry Office (RTIO) said the complaints have not come to their notice. He said they would respond if such practices were prevailing at the BOD.
“The Ministry has already issued office orders to the dealers not to supply more than one LPG cylinder per person. Those mobile LPG suppliers will get the cylinders only in afternoon when the general public queue is over and the service providers are aware of that,” said the regional director. “Any violation of the office order would tantamount to a penalty of Nu 10,000.”
The ORD also attributed the problem to people not availing the non-subsided LPG cylinders. The quota for the subsidized LPG cylinders is 700 metric tons (MT) per month where as the non-subsidized one is 1000 MT per month. “The only feasible solution is to go for non-subsidized cylinder. If at least one household can keep the non-subsided LPG cylinder, then the issue regarding LPG cylinder would be resolved.”
The ORD also said there are more advantages in keeping the non-subsidized where one doesn’t have to wait in queue and are always available. “There are no administrative hassles in buying non-subsidized LPG. One can walk over to the dealer and get the cylinder immediately after paying.”
The regional trade office created awareness on availing the non-subsidized cylinder but it failed to pick up. “One can see many non-subsidized LPG cylinders gathering dust, but nobody seems to bother.”
The government in 2017 came up with POL app to create transparency and accountability with LPG issues and to reach all the people. It initially met with lots of criticism and therefore, had to keep the existing card system along with the app. “More than a year after introducing the app, people are aware of this system. It will take time to fully utilize the app, which is the only solution to address the existing issues,” said the ORD.
The ORD confirmed that people are taking advantage of the card and online apps and taking more cylinders. “To curve that, we have been insisting people to go online especially for Thimphu Throm because mainly due to the large population and with limited number of subsidized LPG,” he said. “We cannot go beyond the allotted quota as consumer keeps increasing day by day and the number of cylinder is fixed.”
Meanwhile the old card system till December 2018 has to be renewed. The ministry has issued 60,216 cards so far. Out of which 41,066 cards is for Thimphu.
Until, the whole country switch to the POL app and opt for non-subsidized cylinders, the problem has no solution.
By Tenzin Jamtsho