Author: Saadut
•10:00 PM

After a news channel had found that the politician held three LPG connections in his name against a norm of one connection per family and made this revelation public, the politician surrendered two of the three connections the very next day. Soon many people jumped to pronounce the ‘leading by example’ verdict. But was this really setting an example by surrendering the extra two connections (termed illegal if held by commoners) or was it only in reaction to the news channel expose? It is a common fact that all LPG connections need the subscriber details including subscriber pic and a signed application form, often checked for duplicity of records. Was it then possible that the politician was unaware of the three connections or had the forms been submitted without his consent and signatures? Even if the politician was unaware of the three LPG connections in his name, would he (or his domestic helps) even need to produce the LPG consumer booklets for supply of LPG refills? Every politician (big or small) leans on his politically afforded systems to take care of all domestic and bazaar chores. Ever seen any politician or their kin in commodity bazaars or in LPG queues? And even if the politician has a single connection at home, would that single connection stop him from arranging for all the LPG refills he may require? Are the avenues for politicians in reality not different from what commoners have, the systems taking care of all that the politician may require, and the same system ensuring the commoner is conveniently ignored to denial and perpetual suffering. 

Do politicians even get informed when the LPG refill in their homes may exhaust and does the ‘only 3 cylinder norm till March’ apply to them also in practice? What if his domestic consumption is more than the three refills till March (surely will consume a far greater number of cylinders than that) will the politician ensure that his household staff procures non subsidized cylinders over the 3 cylinder limit? Surely such nuances and tribulations of life are left only for the common people; the elite political class does not bother about such mundane things, relying on an army of domestic support staff and visibly invisible systems. Leave alone figuring out how their own refills were delivered, ironically not one of these politicians even bothered to visit the unending queues filled with commoners, scouting for LPG refills, in dawn to dusk wait, some successful and some returning empty handed. And with the government now having fled to warmer lands with the Durbar move, do they even bother what happens in this god forsaken winter hell. All system failures and essential services denial take place in Kashmir winters when people need them the most and it is then when the government has fled to warmer plains. Last January’s massive electricity outrage is still fresh in the minds of people, when Kashmir was without electricity and water supply for days (some areas for weeks) while the government was safely insulated in Jammu. Leading by example would be to keep part of the power politicians in winter beaten Kashmir, personally overseeing the resolution of such crisis. 

For the multi-million SUV driving political class, such subsidies do not even equal the bill of their favorite ice crème for a single visit, wonder why do they even club themselves with the subsidies targeted class in the first place. Rather than making a show of the ‘excess cylinder surrender’ would it not be exemplary if they declined to utilize such subsidized supplies, setting a way for other upper class economically strong citizens to follow suit? After all what is the value amount of these subsidies for such elite political class, but not even fraction change? With each cylinder subsidy coming to almost 320 Rupees, a six month supply of 3 subsidized cylinders would only make the politician rich by Rupees 960. What is 960 Rupees for a six monthly period for the politician? It would be more than the token ‘surrender’ if the politician openly did away with his subsidized LPG connection and pledged to consume non subsidized supplies only (supplies of either he can easily arrange for, unlike the deprived commoner).  

Unfortunately in India the distribution of fuel subsidies happens without classification of the deserving and the affluent. Subsidies aimed at cushioning the economically deprived or the socially weaker sections are grabbed by the affluent first. The same cross subsidized diesel that drives a water pump or a tractor in a remote farm drives the multi-million SUV of the super rich. Any change in the fuel price or subsidy amount has a direct effect on the prices of essential commodities and it is the commoner again who suffers from the altering of such balances, the rich and powerful are sufficiently insulated.  
On ground not only has the government failed to resolve the LPG cap limitation, it has also utterly failed to streamline the existing systems of delivery and consumer registration. While the government may have fled for its ‘Durbar’ there is a parallel system that runs on the ground, filled with black marketers and agents openly making a trade of the helplessness of the common man. Ironically while common Kashmiri’s are bracing for another dark and cold winter, the political class are warming to indifference in warmer plains.

The politician surrendering his ‘addition cylinders’ won’t make any difference to the common people; his surrendering to governance apathy and indifference does. 

7th November, 2012