A roadside eatery at Kadma market uses domestic cylinder on Friday. (Animesh Sengupta)
Raju Shaw’s dosa, chowmein and chhole bature are a popular draw at Bistupur Market. Business, he admits, is good as his “mini meals” are tasty and come at affordable prices.
How does he manage in the time of price hikes?
Simple, the cooking gas he uses as fuel comes primarily from 14.2kg domestic LPG cylinders, the cost which is much less than the 19kg commercial variety he is supposed to use.
Thereby hangs a tale. A familiar one at that. Roadside eateries and restaurants make no bones of following the “Raju formula” as it were. Across town, from Kadma, Sonari, Sidhgora to Jugsalai, Mango, Golmuri and parts of Sakchi and posh Bistupur, the unauthorised use of domestic LPG cylinders is rampant.
“We tend to use domestic LPG cylinders as it costs much lower than the commercial ones. It helps us keep the price of our food items affordable,” Raju says smug in the knowledge that last night’s six-cylinder cap on family use of LPG will not affect him.
There are around 300 small eateries across town that survive on bribing the delivery man — Rs 50 will do — to get hold of a 14.2kg cylinder at the subsides rate of Rs 422.
IOCL, which is the predominant petroleum company dealing in LPG, is aware of the problem. Area manager (LPG division) Uday Kumar admitted the rampant misuse of domestic cylinders, but put the onus of curbing the trend on the local administration .
“We want that the local administration and police conduct regular raids to check the misuse of LPG. We are ready to co-operate,” said the official of IOCL that refills six lakh domestic cylinders every month at two plants — one in Gamharia in Seraikela-Kharsawan district and another in Bokaro.
Of these, about 1 lakh cylinders are supplied in and around Jamshedpur that is also witness to pilferage of LPG, courtesy a few organised rackets operating locally.
They use three domestic cylinders (14.2kg each) to refill two commercial cylinders (19kg each). It translates to a net gain of more than Rs 1,700, given that a commercial cylinder costs Rs 1,527.
East Singhbhum SSP Akhilesh Kumar Jha countered the IOCL’s allegation. He claimed the oil company never sought their help to conduct raids. “Rather we have been conducting raids on our own whenever we get information about LPG pilferage,” he said, adding that in the last one year, the police conducted 24 raids, the latest one three days ago at Birsanagar.