FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDEENT
IMPHAL, January 6: Manipur is now facing an artificial shortage of LPG cylinders as a result of the blocking of the road leading to the bottling plant at Sekmai along NH 2. The residents are protesting against the non–repairing of the road which is branched off from the tiol highway.
Almost all the gas agencies in the state have no stock for the consumers on the pretext that they are denied their quota.
Black–marketeers are having a field day by selling one LPG cylinder at Rs 1,100. Though this black–marketing is going on round the clock ubiquitously, there is no government official to interfere. There is no report of seizing of the uccounted cylinders and arrest of the black–marketeers.
On the other hand, it is feared that the gas agencies distribute only a few hundred cylinders to the consumers while the bulk of stock is ‘supplied’ to the black–marketeers for mutual benefits.
People in the know say that those who are supposed to check this kind of public robbery and cheatings are also kept happy by throwing some bones. Though there is no official denial or clarification, it sounds credible since there is no reason why the black–marketeers are given carte blanche to fleece the consumers.
Investigations by The Sentinel suggest that the black–marketeers make two cylinders out of one with the help of one two feet long bamboo.
Before the bottling plant was opened in Manipur, hundreds of trucks used to fetch LPG cylinders from Assam. Most of these trucks halt somewhere near Kaziranga ostensibly for the drivers and cleaners to have meals at the Dutch oven diners which dot the roadsides. These are not big hotels but mostly thatched ones with no power.
The drivers are the most welcome guests in these eateries for the fringe benefits the owners get. While the drivers are having drinks and dinner free of charge, the cleaners and some other urchins siphon off gas from the filled cylinder to the empty one using the bamboo stick.
The two half filled cylinders will be sealed and passed off as new totally filled ones for sale to the gullible customers in Manipur where there is no system to weigh the cylinders even if some customers become suspicious.
After the opening of the gas bottling plants, the owners of the numerous eateries along the tiol highway near Kaziranga are facing huge losses. However, it is believed that the practice of siphoning off gas to the empty ones is still continuing and there is no system of weighing the cylinders at the time of purchase.
During the artificial shortage of cylinders millions of rupees change hands and many sections are persolly benefited. However, the minister concerned remains impervious and one does not have to delve much deep to know the reason.