Upset by anaemic sales of newly-launched 5-kg cooking gas cylinders despite a robust demand, the government is planning to sell small refills in the shopping malls in line with South Korea and also near slums where price constraints force many daily wage earners to opt for small cylinders.
The 5-kg LPG refills are currently available only at petrol pumps owned and operated by oil companies in cities across the country. The scheme was launched on October 5, but deferred in Delhi, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, where Assembly elections were to be held in November and December.
“Two months since the launch, we have been able to sell a little over 1,000 cylinders, but the demand is growing at treble the pace,” a petroleum ministry official told Deccan Herald, adding that the company-owned outlets where the cylinders are currently selling are a few in number and also not within everyone’s reach.
Company-owned and operated outlets make up for only three per cent of the 47,000 petrol pumps in the country.
The scheme is beneficial for the migratory population such as students, IT professionals and BPO employees, as well as people with odd work hours. It offers them the flexibility to pick up cylinders and obtain refills at the time of their choice, the official said.
“We have, however, not been able to tap the slum areas where the demand from labourers is expected to be more. These people often purchase from the black market. We are working out strict safety norms before we capture these areas,” he said.
Some other safer selling points are also being identified to increase the sale of small cylinders. This may turn out to be a better revenue earner for the government, according to the official.
In South Korea, the small cylinders are sold in shopping malls where vending machines have been restored for refill. But safety norms in India prohibit storage of explosives in malls. “We are planning to tie up with shopping malls, may ask them to give us separate space for storage of small cylinders. The scheme has not yet been finalised but we are in discussion with oil marketing companies,” the official said.
The ministry had also approached Safal outlets, which remain open for a longer time, for the sale of such cylinders but it could not fructify.