State-run oil marketing companies have sought the intervention of the ministry of petroleum and natural gas in a matter involving the Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisation (PESO) regarding the sale of free-trade 5-kg LPG (FTL) cylinders.
To cut down on the illegal sale of FTL cylinders, OMCs — including Indian Oil, Hindustan Petroleum and Bharat Petroleum — had sought the permission of PESO to allow the sale of such cylinders from kirana stores without licence and through ferry trucks, to act as mobile points of sale. PESO, an arm under the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion entrusted with the responsibility to ensure safety and security of the public and property from fire and explosion, has shown reservations regarding the safety of such premises.
The National Democratic Alliance government is leaning towards the use of the cleaner fuel for cooking instead of traditional sources such as firewood, which have high carbon emission and health hazards. Oil minister Dharmendra Pradhan on Monday said the LPG coverage in the country has gone up to 72%, thanks to the Pradhan Mantri Ujjawala Yojana, which aims to provide free LPG connections to women belonging to the below poverty household category. The budgetary support for the the scheme has been increased to R2,500 crore for financial year 2017-18 compared with R2,000 crore a year ago.
The government had in July 2013 approved the FTL scheme for selling 5kg LPG cylinders through company-owned retail outlets of OMCs. Under the Gas Cylinder Rules, 2004, up to 100 kg, or 20 cylinders of 5 kg each, could be stored at the licensed outlets at any point in time. However, over time, such cylinders were also sold through kirana stores by OMCs.
In the Gas Cylinder Rule, 2016, PESO however said that 100 kg of LPG can be stored for one’s own consumption only and not for sale. An industry source, requesting not to be identified, said this change under Clause 44 of the rules has created hurdles for the OMCs to sell FTL cylinders to the segment that requires them.
A government release dated July 24, 2013, says, “This decision has been taken in view of the fact that over the years, a new category of consumers have emerged especially in big cities who are mobile and thus do not want a permanent LPG connection but still require LPG for their needs. Such customers need flexibility for getting the LPG cylinders as per their convenience and their needs can also be fulfilled by smaller quantities of LPG.”
LPG sold through FTL cylinders are available at non-subsidised rate. “OMCs have written to PESO as well to reconsider the decision. The government is in favour of promoting FTL so that access is not denied to anyone, especially the migratory population. The issue is being taken up with PESO,” said a government official requesting anonymity.
FE sought responses from the OMCs on the issue but no response came in till filing of the report. NT Shahu, joint chief controller of explosives and head of the department, PESO, however, said that it is in dialogue with the petroleum ministry and is working out the modalities to allow sale of FTL cylinders through kirana stores.
India has committed to move towards cleaner sources of fuel to cut its carbon emission as part of the Paris climate change deal. It also plans to increase the share of gas in the energy mix to 15% in the next three years from the current 6.5%.
– Saurabh Kumar