“Jyada paisa kamana kaun nahi chahta (Who doesn’t want to earn more profits?)?” quipped the owner of a roadside fast food joint at Albert Ekka Chowk, explaining why he had stocked up four domestic cylinders rather than sticking to law and using the expensive commercial ones.
The expedient logic to making money bares how roadside eateries, restaurants, welding units and the like have eaten into the ordinary man’s share of subsidised domestic LPG cylinders that have been capped at six per household by the Centre.
Like elsewhere, the rationing may have stung the ordinary man in the state capital, but a lackadaisical district administration and oil companies have so far failed to crack down on use of domestic cylinders for commercial purposes.
One can easily notice domestic cylinders being used at any roadside eatery in areas such as Lalpur, Dangratoli, Albert Ekka Chowk and Kutchery Chowk.
The difference in prices explains the illegal practice. A 14.2kg domestic cylinder, which is banned in commercial units, costs Rs 425.50 in Ranchi. A commercial cylinder, which weighs 19kg, is priced at Rs 1,538.50. As a result, traders use domestic cylinders to jack up their profit margins.
But don’t they get caught or fined?
“Sab setting ho jata hai (Everything gets managed),” the owner of the fast food joint stressed as a matter of pride.
With shops, hostels, messes and food joints mushrooming in every nook and corner, scarcity is obvious, even as people are left with no option but wait in long queues outside the offices of LPG dealers to refill cylinders. Even private caterers use domestic cylinders to save up on costs.
Black marketing of gas is yet another example of misuse of cylinders in the city. In the city’s core areas like Kantatoli, Bahu Bazaar, Lalpur, Dangratoli, around a dozen shops refill cylinders in “black”.
The shopkeepers procure 5kg cylinders from the open market and fill them with domestic LPG obtained from authorised gas agencies.They charge anywhere from Rs 300 (for 5kg) to around Rs 1,000 (14.2kg). For every cylinder secured from gas agencies, they earn around Rs 400 to Rs 450.
What are gas companies and the administration doing?“In the past, we have lodged FIRs at Kotwali, Chutia and Jagannathpur police stations in the city against hotel owners and roadside eateries that were found using domestic LPG cylinders for commercial purposes,” district supply officer Pramod Singh said.
He added, “In the coming days, our raids will be intensified. As part of a new action plan drawn up by the district administration to check unauthorised use of LPG cylinders and to ensure consumers get their refills without delays, strict watch is being maintained on roadside eateries, hostel operators, big hotels, caterers and even gas welding and repair units.”
Singh said big hotels showed stocks of commercial cylinders that were apparently used to cook food for customers but were empty. “According to our reports, most commercial cylinders are empty and the big hotel owners are using low-priced domestic cylinders instead. The commercial cylinders at the hotels are only to mislead inspectors.”