It is summer and J&K has better discharge in its rivers. Almost all the power projects are operating with full capacity. During the month of Ramzan, an improved power supply – almost non-stop in certain areas of Srinagar was a major relief for the population. Unmetered areas actually made the best of the improved supply regardless of their tariff structure.
Availability of energy was the main factor for the modest consumer demand for the LPG, especially from old city and the periphery. The situation is changing. As Kashmir inches towards the autumn when the rivers will lose most of their discharge, the energy generation will nosedive and Kashmir will be back to the frightening rationing and load-shedding, the demand for the LPG would sour. The market is already feeling a good shortage of the cooking gas. It is the right time to understand the requirement, revisit the market and make proper assessment.
A delay will actually trigger a larger crisis later especially if the unreliable surface communication gets disrupted for reasons of weather. Policy makers need to take care of the fundamental realities on ground and skip valuating the requirement on basis of the registered family users. Kashmir played host to more than a million visitors this season. There are nearly half a million workers which are listed nowhere and their requirements have never been evaluated. They do not use traditional hearths or kerosene stoves because it is uneconomic.
They are relying on LPG to manage their rented hearths. Though the security agencies have their own stocks, still the fluctuations in their footfalls does create situations that they also seek their bit of the cake from the open market. The biggest issue, however, is the massive consumption of LPG in the transport sector. Thousands of vehicles have now skipped using petrol and or running on LPG. There are dozens of outlets which are doing a brisk business by installing the LPG fuel tanks.
A number of new models of personal cars are being sold in the market with inbuilt systems. Right now this is the major drain for the LPG meant for domestic users and the registered and genuine commercial users. Policy makers should have raied questions over how a market is thriving on LPG when Kashmir lacks the basic facilities. Who in the civil secretariat has assessed the requirement of the LPG for the transport sector or tried to study the sources of the fuel this personal car sector is consuming? For the LPG suppliers, this is the new fortune, a new alternative economy that has already created millionaires. Usually societies permit newer things for its members after building, crating or managing the required infrastructure.
Permitting use of LPG as alternative fuel should have followed creating CNG facility or even supply of packaged commercial transport cylinders. It was fairly possible that some of the car seller would be entrusted in crating such facility. But that did not happen. People were permitted to us LPG as fuel and they were not discouraged from swindling the share meant to manage hearths. This myopia is enough to create a crisis. Authorities should think over it well before junta starts thinking about their IQ.