Jail threat if you don't hand over LPG cylinders

Vol 15, PW 8 (20 Oct 11) People & Policy

Imagine landing in jail because your customers have old LPG cylinders illegally stashed away.

Gas retailers across India are losing sleep over an October 31 deadline imposed by the oil ministry for all household and commercial piped gas customers to ‘surrender’ their old LPG cylinders. At a meeting in Delhi in September, ministry officials scolded representatives from state-owned oil marketing companies and city gas distributors for not taking the deadline seriously.

They reminded retail gas players of ‘notification’ number GSR 655(E) issued by the ministry on September 10, 2009, under the draconian Essential Commodities Act, 1955. “This notification makes city gas distributors responsible for ensuring customers surrender cylinders,” explains a gas retailer.

“If I don’t ensure this, I’ll be jailed! Why am I being made responsible for cylinders I neither own nor supply” Our source stresses that state-owned Hindustan Petroleum, Bharat Petroleum and IndianOil own and supply LPG cylinders at government-subsidised prices. “The oil ministry cannot touch these companies,” we hear.

“So it’s punishing us.” Under the ministry’s September 2009 notification, each household or business must sign a statement pledging to surrender LPG cylinders.

But if a customer fails to surrender a cylinder within 60 days of receiving piped gas supplies, the CGD operator is penalised. Adani Gas, which has networks in Ahmedabad and Faridabad, has uploaded the ministry’s notification in Hindi and English on its website.

“We have also written letters to our customers,” says Adani. BG-owned gas retailer Gujarat Gas too is running an advertising campaign to raise awareness among customers in Surat, Bharuch and Ankleshwar.

By August 15 this year Indian gas retailers had laid pipelines to connect 1,525,051 businesses and households in total. But exactly 482,874 of these have had gas supplies terminated for not surrendering LPG cylinders.