LPG or liquefied petroleum gas commonly used for domestic cooking purposes was traditionally available in 14.2-kg cylinders. In October, 2013, the Union Government introduced 5-kg cylinders of LPG available at all LPG distribution centres in the country at subsidised rates. After the successful penetration of the market with 5-kg cylinders, the Government now plans to launch mini 2-kg cylinders, which will be available at kirana stores.
Oil Minister Dharmendra Pradhan said: “We are now planning to introduce a 2-kg cylinder that can be easily carried. This will be particularly beneficial for the rural people and poor who cannot afford to pay the price of a 14.2-kg or even 5-kg cylinder.”
The main objective of the introduction of 2-kg bottles of cylinder would be to cater to people who do not have proof of address due to acquiring residence on temporary basis:
- Students: It’s for students who are living alone and often shifting base and cook mini meals for themselves. Students do not require the traditional 14.2 kg cylinder and in most cases, neither do they have the space for the same.
- Economically Weaker Families: Even with the subsidised rates, many families in India cannot afford to pay for a 14.2-kg cylinder. The 2-kg cylinder will be affordable, and as a result, they do not need to opt for other unhealthy means of cooking.
- Migrant Labourers: India has a vast population of migrant labourers who lead a nomadic life shifting from site to site according to work available. A 2-kg cylinder will come as a boon to them as it will be easy for them to carry it along, and exchange it at a kirana store in their next location.
In India, the LPG market covers 57% of the total population. Nearly 40% of the population is still using fuel like firewood, cow dung cakes, coal or kerosene for cooking, which is neither good for the environment nor for the women using it. Introduction of easily accessible 2-kg LPG cylinder will help penetrate into the more inaccessible and rural locations of India, thus helping the environment as well as the people in those areas.
- The government plans to launch a marketing strategy with options of buying cylinders of weighing 2kg, 5 kg, 10 kg and 14.2 kg.
- The plan is to meet the requirement as well as the paying capacity of consumers from all types of economic background: rich or poor.
- The government wants to scale up the coverage with the option of including new brands if required.
- The focus is also to increase the domestic production of LPG to ensure adequate availability in line with projected demand.
As per the Vision 2015 document drawn in 2009 for the LPG sector, the government wants to ensure maximum coverage with maximum benefits to its consumers.
Online Booking of LPG
The government’s Digital India initiative has now taken a step further by introducing online booking for new connections for LPG cylinders. Pradhan said, “Consumers can now book a new connection online. It will be verified within 48 hours and a person from the nearest LPG agency will deliver a new connection at the door-step in next 3-4 days.” The portal where the online booking can be done is named Sahaj and is launched at MyLPG.in. It will be available at Delhi, Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Bhopal, Bhubaneshwar, Chandigarh, Chennai, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Lucknow, Mumbai, Patna and Pune for now and will be launched across the country in the next few days. The advantages of online booking, created by the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas along with oil marketing companies like Indane, Bharat Gas and HP Gas are multi-fold including:
- Bribes for a new connection will come to an end.
- Booking an LPG or a new connection will become hassle-free.
- The initiative will save time.
- Consumers can track cylinder booking and delivery dates.
- Consumers can choose the distributor.
- MyLPG portal is available on phones, tablets and computers.
- They can even keep track of Aadhaar linking status, monitor LPG subsidy transferred to bank and surrender their connection online.
In case of a new connection, the whole process will take 6-7 days including payment online, duplication check and delivery of the regulator, cylinder and rubber pipe.
Direct Benefits Transfer for LPG (DBTL) or PAHAL
As per this scheme launched in November 2014 and extending throughout the country since January, 2015, the domestic LPG is sold to the consumer at market price and the cash subsidy is credited into the Aadhaar linked bank account of the individual. The subsidy is available on the 12 authorised 14.2-kg cylinders and 34 authorised 5-kg cylinders in a year. The scheme has been recognised by the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest cash transfer programme in the world. The scheme has eliminated evils like middle-men and black marketers with the assurance of delivery of fuel to the right people.
Since its launch, out of 15.65 crore active domestic LPG consumers, 13.8 crore have joined the DBTL and are getting subsidy in their bank accounts. LPG subsidy payout from Union Budget in 2014-15 was Rs 40,591 crore as against Rs 52,231 crore in 2013-14, a saving of Rs 11,640 crore.
The idea of inclusion of 2-kg LPG cylinders as well as online booking is indeed commendable. This will see coverage of a larger section of the society. However, the government will have to keep a check on black marketing in case of the 2-kg bottles of LPG, which will be available over the counter at kirana shops. The objective of helping the economically weaker section will only help India take a step further towards economic development.