LPG: The new consumer card system for distribution of domestic liquid petroleum gas (LPG) cylinders will be enforced in Thimphu only by mid-next month.

The consumer card system was supposed to have come into effect nationwide by January 1.

While it is now being followed in the rest of the country, implementation in Thimphu has been extended until next month given overwhelming demand for the cards.

Department of Trade officiating director general Dophu Tshering said that despite cards being issued since October 1, limited staff at the regional trade office catering to the large Thimphu population caused the time extension.

He added that the regional trade office is open even on Saturdays for card issuance.

Unlike the past system where anyone with a used LPG cylinder could exchange it for a new or refilled one, the card system will allow a household to purchase at most three cylinders a month.

This is to prevent the cylinders, which are provided at a subsidised rate by the Indian government on a quota basis, from being used for non-commercial purposes. The use of the subsidised LPG cylinders had also been leading to shortages in supply.

Dophu Tshering said that individuals have been found to own up to five cylinders and that businesses owned even more, before the introduction of commercial LPG cylinders. He added that the consumer card system would allow the government to ensure that the cylinders provided under the quota are used judiciously and not for commercial purposes.

Commercial LPG cylinders were introduced in October 2012.

Dophu Tshering also pointed out that issuance will now be made only if the card is presented. It is estimated that a cylinder would last a large family 25-30 days, and a small one for more than a month, according to the officiating director general.

The government receives a quota of 700 metric tonnes of subsidised LPG cylinders a month.

The regional trade office was not able to provide a number on how many consumer cards have been issued till date.

By Gyalsten K Dorji