LAHORE: The ‘shortage’ of the liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) coupled with a record rise in its prices multiplied the woes of consumers and commuters for the third day on Saturday.

As most traders dealing in the LPG kept their shutters down, the gas was available between Rs220 and Rs300 a kilo at the few outlets that too were not selling more than five kilos a customer.

Residents in a number of housing societies that either lacked a Sui gas connection or having low pressure had also switched over to LPG. Irked by the exorbitant increase in prices, some attempted to search cheaper sources like firewood and coal but found the alternatives had been beyond their reach.

“I had been buying LPG at higher rates for the last three days, but it has suddenly disappeared from the market,” said Asif Awan, a resident of Azam Garden on Multan Road.

Gas is available at few outlets for Rs220 to Rs300

“Firewood and coal are hazardous but I had no option but to switch to them. But today prices of both increased manifolds -- firewood being sold for Rs1,200 from Rs700 for 40 kilo while coal from Rs60 to Rs100 a kilo,” he said.

Maqboola, a housemaid, living in a slum area near Harbanspura, used to buy empty wooden crates from the Singhpura fruit and vegetable market to cook food for the family. But on Saturday, she had to return empty-handed from the market as the prices of crates were beyond her purchasing power.

“I bought a heap of crates for Rs150 a week ago. Now traders are demanding Rs5 per crate. Where is the government?” she asked.

Outside railway station, a middle-aged man was arguing with a rickshaw driver. “I paid Rs150 from Islampura to here at midnight on last Thursday and you are demanding Rs400 in broad daylight…” The rickshaw driver replied: “Sir Ji! LPG was Rs220 per kilo on last Thursday and now it is Rs300 a kilo.” “Why do not you use petrol?” “I can’t because first I have to get the carburetor replaced. Can you guarantee that when I do so the prices of petrol will not increase?”

LPG Distributors Association Chairman Irfan Khokhar alleged that the marketing companies were earning Rs150 million profit daily by black-marketing the LPG.

He said the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra) had on last Wednesday asked the LPG marketing companies to adhere to their licencing conditions and ensure that their dealers and distributors follow the procedures and price notifications.

“The Ogra merely issues directives,” said Mr Khokhar.

Published in Dawn, December 28th, 2014