One rule for people, another for VIPs is undemocratic - The New Indian Express

One rule for people, another for VIPs is undemocratic

Published: 15th September 2013 07:21 AM

Last Updated: 15th September 2013 07:21 AM

Petroleum Minister Veerappa Moily’s recent suggestion of shutting down petrol pumps early to reduce the government’s oil import bill was predictably shot down as impractical, but one question remains. How can the government justify its rule that if LPG users do not order refills at least once every four months, their registration as legitimate users gets cancelled? The government subsidises each cylinder by `520. Anyone who stretches the use of a cylinder beyond four months is actually helping the government save precious foreign exchange. They should be lauded, instead of being punished.

Elderly couples living alone, single working women, bachelors and professionals who travel frequently on work-related assignments do not exhaust a cylinder within four months. Last year, a drive in Karnataka to cancel registration of those who could not comply with the rule caused immense harassment to genuine users. They were required to upload their electricity bill, RR numbers, ration card details, etc. to re-register. A scientist who had gone abroad on an extended assignment of six months, an elderly woman living alone who went to live with her son for four months after her husband passed away, and another senior citizen who cooks frugal meals and sees her cylinder last for over six months were among the thousands who were inconvenienced by the ‘rule’.

With the latest Aadhar-linked direct transfer scheme (already introduced in some districts), more harassment lies in store. Some have not received their bank account-linked subsidy reimbursements for months, some do not have Aadhar cards, others are told that the Aadhar scheme is itself being questioned. A woman who maintains two apartments at different ends of the city, for family reasons, and uses gas at both places, is told that she cannot have “multiple” connections and has to surrender one, because the rule is “one family, one connection”.

In the meantime, however, a leading politician reportedly has seven gas connections at his residence. On investigation, I was told, “He gets a lot of visitors, he needs many cylinders.” Since when have politicians begun supplying tea or food to people coming to him for favours? One rule for the VIP, another for the aam aadmi, right? What kind of democracy is that?

I recall the report about a former US president who was pulled up for making 12 party promotional calls from his official White House phone line. I also saw a photograph recently, of British PM David Cameron travelling in a metro train standing because all the seats were taken. The other commuters were busy reading their papers. There were no guards, guntoting or otherwise, clearing the way for the PM or asking people to vacate seats for the VIP. The PM of Norway recently made news by driving a taxi for a day, incognito and complete with taxi driver badge, “to get a feel of what the people are saying and thinking”.

In India, the Supreme Court has had to issue orders restricting the use of red beacon cars by so-called VIPs. When Karnataka’s Chief Minister Siddaramaiah announced an inspection tour, the potholes (63,000 at last count—and that’s only the official figure) were filled up and mounds of rotting garbage were cleared overnight, but only along the route he was to take. No wonder, the rule about a limit of one connection and nine LPG refills per year applies only to the aam aadmi, not to VIPs.

The more unreasonable the rule, the greater the chances of people resorting to devious means to circumvent it. Those using cylinders sparingly now place orders for others, who need more than nine refills. Both parties are happy. How does the country benefit?

The writer is a consumer activist.

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