By Sheikh Qayoom
Srinagar, Kashmiris are fretting over a new preoccupation: hunting for the original papers of their cooking gas connections if they want a refill.
Thus, in homes across the Valley, the people are rummaging through old trunks, cupboards and files, looking for the official documents. So even as civil society, political parties, traders and others continue daily protests against the cap on subsidised LPG cylinders, Kashmiris have been scrambling for papers they had long forgotten about.
Everyone has been affected.
Mehbooba Mufti, president of the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) told the state assembly recently that she has been frantically searching for the documents of her gas connection. Imagine the plight of common people in the state.
LPG dealers find long queues outside their offices, as people from different strata of society who don’t have the documents line up to acquire them. Lining up are doctors, engineers, lawyers and pavement vendors. Everyone seems to spend time in the line in a bid to get a valid gas card for the LPG refill.
“The problem is that till now nobody asked you for the papers when you wanted a refill. Today nobody is prepared to give you a refill unless you have valid connection papers,” Raashid Bhat, a cameraman, told IANS.
Manzoor, 46, works in a local club as a gym attendant. Arriving at the gym in the morning, he displayed to the members a bruised knee.
While people run from pillar to post to find ways to get valid LPG documents, dealers have a field day selling refills at exorbitant prices by creating an artificial scarcity in the city. Although authorities here say the old system of issuing LPG refills without asking for papers would continue till Oct 15, people are forced to pay through their noses for gas refills in the black market.
“I bought a refill for Rs. 1,200 the other day. Can’t help it. There’s nothing else to cook with,” says Shabir Ahmad, 31, who works in a media outlet here.
Others are less resigned to their fate and say that the panic is so widespread that it is now high time the authorities intervened to stabilise the situation.
“The other day, I went with my grand-daughter to a doctor’s clinic. The attendant at the clinic said doctor sahib was away, waiting to get his papers from some LPG dealer,” said Noor Muhammad Wani, a retired bank officer.
Officials of the Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution (CAPD) department say things will soon stabilise.
“People must bear with us for some more time. We are working out the details with the various gas companies to address the crisis,” said a CAPD official who requested anonymity.
The gas dealers, meanwhile, have a standard response for those in queue, seeking not new gas connections but just valid documents for existing connections: “If you don’t have any papers to support your status as an existing LPG consumer, you have to buy a new connection. For that, you have to pay Rs. 6,300 if you want to buy two cylinders and the stove.”
So what do people do with the LPG cylinders they already have, without valid papers? Dealers say the LPG cylinders are the property of gas companies and these must be surrendered immediately to avoid legal action.
“We are left high and dry. With no other means to cook food, we have to dance to the tune of the gas dealers,” said a disgusted customer.