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Gas pleas fall on deaf ears

- Consumers block road to protest

Bhubaneswar, Feb. 26: Consumers here are finding that promises about cooking gas are full of hot air.

With their calls for booking falling on deaf ears, many have been forced to resort to stoves for their cooking.

Nearly 100 consumers, mostly women, today surrounded an LPG outlet as the agency in Indradhanu Market of Nayapalli had failed to deliver cooking gas to them even a month after booking.

As the consumers blocked the road, police had to intervene to bring the situation under control.

Siddheswar Das, one of the agitating consumers, said: “I booked a cylinder early in January. I am yet to get delivery. I have come to the agency several times, but no one pays heed.”

Consumers alleged that they were being made to suffer by the gas agencies, which were trying to make money by resorting to black marketing.

“A cylinder sells for Rs 800 to Rs 1,000 in the black market. So, they find it more profitable,” said Prabir Das, a consumer residing at IRC Village.

They alleged that the agencies sold gas mostly to roadside eateries, which don’t have valid connections.

Mitali Pradhan, a schoolteacher, said: “I booked a cylinder a month and half ago. Whenever I want to know the status of my booking over the phone, no one picks up. If someone happens to pick up the phone, it is promptly disconnected.”

She said she had to buy a kerosene stove to do her cooking.

Food supply and consumer welfare secretary Madhu Sudan Padhi said: “There is absolutely no shortage of gas in the state. People should be given the cylinders on time.”

He promised that the department would inquire into the matter.

“I will ask my officers to examine the matter and submit a report,” he said.

Padhi said the government would take up the issue with Bharat Gas to ascertain why the agency had failed to deliver cylinders on time.

According to the rules, consumers should get cylinders within 48 hours of booking and new gas connections within seven days of application.

However, the reality is that consumers in the twin cities have to wait for nearly 15 days for a refill, while getting a new connection has become an uphill task. Bhubaneswar alone has around 2.25 lakh gas connections.

“To make a new booking you have to wait for 15 days and then wait for another 15 days for delivery. This effectively means one month for a new cylinder to land at your doorstep,” said Pravas Chandra Mohanty, a consumer of VSS Nagar.

He said one had to make several phone calls for a single booking.

“The black marketing of cylinders at different levels threatens to stifle the rights of customers who are entitled to timely delivery. We have, in the past, suspended a number of gas agencies. We will soon launch a drive to identify the erring gas agencies,” the secretary said.

However, state coordinator of Indian Oil P.K. Das sought to defend the companies.

Asserting that there was no shortage, he said: “I will certainly take up the matter. We respond to a consumer’s demand within two to three days.”