LPG: At 8:15am yesterday, Rinchen, a corporative employee, had come with an empty cylinder at the Bhutan Oil Distributor (BOD) in Mothitang, Thimphu.
He joined the long queue of people waiting at fuel station. The station is some metres away from the gas depot. There were hundreds of customers ahead of him but that did not bother him. He must get a refilled cylinder.
This is a typical picture at the gas depot. Every morning, there is a long line of people waiting to get their cylinders refilled.
After waiting almost two hours, Rinchen got to the counter. But the woman in the counter refused to issue him the cylinder because she said he was not eligible to get a refilled cylinder. The ministry of Economy Affairs does not allow a cardholder to avail of more than one refilled cylinder in a month.
Rinchen got a refilled cylinder in the first week of this month. He thought he still has one more quota because a cardholder was entitled two quotas a month. Department of Trade had issued a notification to depot on November 18 that says a cardholder will get only one refilled cylinder in a month.
“Had the customers been informed about the decision, we would not have waited a long time,” said Rinchen. “I am office goer and wasting two hours is wastage of money.”
Like Rinchen, about eight customers returned from the counter after they were told they were not eligible to get refilled cylinder. Some went to the extent of quarrelling with the officials in the depot. Many complained that change in decision is affecting the public.
However, Dophu Tshering, Officiating Director of Department of Trade, said the decision is an interim measure to that there is no misuse of cylinders and to consider appropriate measures for effective distribution of gas.
He added that by looking at the rising demand of gas, some illegal business must be taking place. “I think some customers must be giving out their quotas to hoteliers and restaurant owners who need more cylinders. Otherwise 500 cylinders a day should be adequate for the consumers in Thimphu.”
If the demand for LPG still continues to shoot up, the department may continue with the current system. “This measure will give us a clear picture of whether to continue with this system or think of other ways to address the issue,” Dophu Tshering said.
The department will issue a notification to hoteliers and restaurant owners on November 26 to stop them from using quota cylinders and stick on to commercial cylinders. The department also has plans to organise ‘sudden inspection’ to make sure that quota cylinders are not misused.
However, consumers said that as long as there is strict monitoring mechanism in place misuse of cylinders if any could be prevented.
A civil servant said that resorting to such a measure should not be the ultimatum when the population increases and family size grows.
But Dophu Tshering said that with regular supply, one cylinder should be enough for one family. “When the supply was erratic, there use to be a problem, but not now.”
Many said that the waiting time in depot could also be minimised if the depot could mobilise additional manpower at the counter.
Currently there is only one counter that caters for hundreds of customers every morning.
“If there could be two counters, service could be improved,” said Tshewang, a customer.
By Tenzin Namgyel