Monday, May 6, 2013

Thou shall be subsidised whether you want it or not

The law is an ass. Governments are a bigger ass. Ramamritham is the chief ass. But even by those standards this takes the cake.

Those familiar with India knows that this poor country indulges in wasteful expenditure of the worst sort. Free colour TVs, grinders, etc have made the news. But the criminal, inexcusable and worst sort of government waste is the subsidy on Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG). If there was a word stronger than criminal, I would use it.

LPG  is supplied to all and sundry at a subsidy. It is sold at roughly half the cost - the government is supposed to pay the balance half to the oil companies , but it does so as and when it feels like it, or not at all. It is actually quite difficult to estimate how much the total subsidy is as the government hides this in different pockets but my estimate is that this monstrosity costs us some Rs 30,000 crores.

The really poor don't use any cooking fuel at all - maybe firewood. The poor use kerosene. Only the relatively rich use LPG. Its actually the middle class which is pocketing all this money.

The middle class moans about the cost of cooking gas . And yet you only have to go 1 mile near T Nagar and the gold shops in Chennai to see the amount of money the middle class has. The total "subsidy" for a  year that you can now get is Rs 3600 or so per family. Are you telling me that the middle class household cannot afford to pay Rs 3600 more per year for cooking their food. This is the same middle class which is snapping up the newest model of smartphones every year.  Its a complete farce.

The impact overall of this organised stealing is simply awful. India has made no investments at all in piped gas supply. LPG cylinders are  still being trucked all over the country. There is zero interest in any alternate fuels.  A whole bureaucracy has evolved around oil companies, agencies, transporters etc. Try getting a new cooking gas connection now - its possibly easier to learn quantum mechanics.  If you wish to do a case study on how not to treat a consumer, all you have to do is stand near a gas agency for an hour and witness the tales of woe of the people coming there.

Actually, raising the price of cooking gas cylinder by Rs 1000 per cylinder might be a good idea - it will cause Rajalakshmi to reduce her girth ! Eating less food, especially by the middle class, is a desirable social goal :)

The problem is that there is really no other choice. Private gas companies do offer unsubsidised cooking gas without all the contortions, but they are small scale and unreliable. Even then, quite a few consumers have opted to go there, simply because of the impossibility of handling Ramamritham's requirements.

Being a contentious citizen (!!!), this blogger went to his agency and asked not to be given a subsidy. He was willing to pay the full price. He was promptly told that this was not possible and he has no option but to take the subsidised price.

What sort of a place is this where a consumer offers to pay more and the seller refuses. If ever proof was needed that governments, and Ramamrithams, are an ass ..........