Thursday, Oct 02, 2014

The daily drill: For kerosene, the poor face cumbersome procedure, stampedes, fights

At a kerosene depot  in Bapu Dham, Chandigarh. (Jaipal Singh) At a kerosene depot in Bapu Dham, Chandigarh. (Jaipal Singh)
Chandigarh | Posted: May 2, 2014 5:02 am

Shyna Kalra
Buyiong kerosene has become an ordeal for the city’s poor, with the administration introducing a cumbersome procedure. Anarchic conditions, stampedes and fights have become a daily affair at the city’s kerosene depots, turning these into virtual battlefields.

Earlier, buying kerosene was a simple, single-window transaction for BPL card holders. Now, instructions have been issued that kerosene should be sold in the presence of officials of the Food and Supplies Department, and every buyer should be photographed.

So, a person has to first get himself registered with the depot owner. Next, he has to register at the counter set up by the Food and Supplies Department, then a token is issued and the person has to stand in a queue to get himself photographed while holding a board that has the serial number, date and amount of kerosene allotted to him. Only after this, he gets kerosene.

Since the bureaucratic process takes its own time, crowds of impatient people gather outside the depots, waiting for hours for their turn in the blazing sun. The scene is chaotic and fights are common.

At a depot at Bapu Dham in Sector 26, many people got injured in stampede-like conditions. At one time, only a group of about 20 persons was allowed to enter the depot, and the rest had to stand outside locked gates, holding their cards and containers.

Among  them was Rajwati. She said, “We got our kerosene on the 10th of last month.  The depot is open on fixed days and for limited timings. So everyone is anxious.’’ She had come to the depot at 6 in the morning and was still waiting around noon.

Sales manager Reeta said they could not start sale until the officials arrived. “We have been here since 8 in the morning but had to wait till 10 when the officials came,” she said.

Sangeeta Sharma, sales manager at the Sector 29 depot, said earlier they used to distribute kerosene to around 1,000 card holders in a day, “but now the number does not cross 300. The procedure takes time and people often get hard to manage’’.

Danish Ashraf, Joint Director (Food and Supplies), said the new orders were passed to check malpractices at depots. As for the disorder, he said, “If people want benefit, then they would have to suffer a little.’’

Another official admitted that the new procedure had created problems for them as well. “Our employees have been injured by a mob at Mauli Jagran. Yesterday,  the booths were open until 8.30 pm,” he said.

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