Hundreds of vehicles are parked on the highway between Srinagar and Pattan as residents living on the either side of the road have blocked the road. Interesting part is they are using empty LPG cylinders for blocking the passage.
Businesses and educational institutions are locked and offices are reporting a thin attendance. Though part of private transport is plying in the city, most of the inter-district traffic is off the roads. Unlike the strikes for political reasons, Friday witnessed not much of deployments on the streets in Srinagar. People coming from peripheral districts had to take different alternative routes to reach the city as they faced blockades on the main road. There was no problem, however, in the movement of train and landing of aircrafs on the Srinagar ‘international’ airport.
Kashmir is observing a shutdown against the massive hike in the LPG costs. But the increasing frustration is over not keeping it available even at commercial rates. The know your customer (KYC) norms that oil companies are adhering to snail’s pace is making the situation adverse for the commoners who lack time to stay in line for hours and retrieve documents that grand-pa’s had managed.
Companies apart, the local dealers are adding to the crisis. There are only 43 dealers who are supposed to take care of a huge clientele. There are 857124 LPG connections in Kashmir. While HPCL provides 623148 connections, IOC has 171243 and BPCL has 62733. Interestingly HP has 26 dealers, OIC has nine and BP has seven. Though there were provisions of adding to the numbers especially in the periphery, the highly-connected dealers, usually having strong political and administrative back up, have frustrated the moves in the past.
Kashmir’s annual consumption has been 5142744 cylinders last year.
Almost every political party has opposed the hike especially the associated issues like re-registering the consumer and refusing him supply till the KYC norms are not managed fully.
The crisis has hit Kashmir at a time when the upper areas have witnessed season’s first snowfall which has led the mercury fall. Most of urban and sub-urban Kashmir has already give up the traditional hearth system. LP non availability will essentially mean either the rise in the electricity consumption or the massive pressures on the forests.
CAPD officials said LPG is adequately available and the apparent shortage owes to the new policy shift in which oil companies will have to improve their records. Minister Qamar Ali Akhoon on Thursday told trade leaders and senior officers of oil companies that while he is expecting favourable shift in the policy in case of J&K, LPG will be made aviliable to consumers regardless of the KYC issues involved.
“HPL is distributing 18 truck- loads of gas in Srinagar daily while as IOC and BP are distributing five truck loads and four truck loads respectively in the Srinagar,” Akhnoon told the meeting. “The process will remain in operation till 17th October in the first instance.”
It seems, however, Kashmir is in the grip of a crisis. People are desperately hoarding the LPG because they are unsure of its availability in coming winter. Last year, a similar crisis led to a situation in which they were given 5 kgs cylinders.