Throngs at Karachi cylinder shops after gas ‘disappears’ from kitchens

Published March 27, 2024
People stand at a cylinder and LPG filling shop in North Nazimabad. —Fahim Siddiqi / White Star
People stand at a cylinder and LPG filling shop in North Nazimabad. —Fahim Siddiqi / White Star

KARACHI: The anger of people in the city, which is facing a gas crisis and undergoing hours-long loadshedding and low pressure in Ramazan, is visible at the liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) cylinder filling shops.

Before the advent of Ramazan, the Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC) had announced that it would ensure gas supply from 3am to 9am for Sehri and from 3pm to 10pm for Iftar.

However, almost the entire city has been experiencing low pressure problem during Sehri and Iftar timings due to which many people have opted for LPG cylinder as an alternative.

“Our country is rich in natural resources. It is the government’s responsibility to provide us utilities as we pay it taxes. But they are doing nothing of the sort, leaving us high and dry to fend for ourselves,” said Mohammed Tahir, a Bykea rider.

Karachiites have been suffering from gas outages and low pressure since first Ramazan

“As it is, the cost of food items, especially fruit and vegetables, is going up. On top of that we have to buy gas to cook food when there is none being supplied through the pipelines,” he added.

At the LPG filling stations, most of them makeshift, at Sultanabad, Railway Colony and Burns Road, you encountered young children sent out from their homes to get the cylinders filled.

“I’m not fasting today because I’m sick. But still there was no escaping coming here to get the cylinder filled,” said young Mohammed Ali, a resident of Sultanabad.

At Sultanabad, gas was being filled at a cost of Rs290 per kilogramme as scribbled with white chalk on the little black slate on the wall. The young man doing the filling said that he had revised the price some three times in the last 10 days, twice after the start of Ramazan.

Yaqoob, a rickshaw owner, was also there to get LPG for his rickshaw.

“Right now LPG here is about 10 to 20 rupees more expensive than petrol. Here in Sultanabad I’m filling my rickshaw cylinder for Rs290 but just a couple of days back I also bought it for Rs300 at Burns Road. I had to get it from there as I had run out of gas,” he informed.

When asked why he was still buying LPG when petrol was cheaper, the rickshaw driver reminded that on average it is still cheaper for him because LPG has a longer running time than petrol.

Meanwhile, as the cylinders were being filled, the station in charge informed them that there was no electricity. “It is time for the daily power loadshedding,” he informed the people waiting in line with their cylinders and cursing the government and the power utility.

Abdul Sattar, a customer, said that they were constantly playing hide-and-seek with gas and electricity.

“There is also no power at taraweeh time here. We say our taraweeh prayers under the flickering lights of generators. All part of our kind of Ramazan blessings,” he smiled sarcastically.

Ahmed Ali, another gas cylinder shop owner there, said that he saw so many children coming to him to refill their little four to five kilogramme cylinders. “It reminds me of the 1990s when I was as little as them,” he smiled.

“Things have not improved, in fact things have gotten worse,” he added.

“Now so many rickshaws run on LPG, which is not good for the engine but still people are willing to buy it. Later, the engine repair work and overhauling will also cost quite a bit but these people are okay with that as long as they can make do with this arrangement right now.”

At Railway Colony, LPG was slightly more expensive at Rs300 per kilogramme but the person at the shop said while pointing at his big blue cylinders that he was filling the little cylinders from, that he bought them expensive in the first place. “I, too, have to make some money. I’m not going to sell at a loss,” he reasoned.

A resident there was also cursing the folks who used illegal gas pumps.

“When they switch on their pumps, we are left with no pressure at all. The flame turns into candle flame, which is of no use for cooking so we have to switch to cylinders,” he said. “I wish these people who resort to such illegal means of obtaining gas, would understand that we could all get equal pressure if they didn’t turn on their pumps.”

LPG was also selling at Rs300 per kilogramme at Burns Road as had been indicated by Yaqoob, the rickshaw owner earlier. When the seller was informed that the gas was available at a slightly lower rate in some other areas, he said that they were buying LPG from an authentic source while some others were buying from here or there where the LPG had added stench.

“I know somewhere it is sold for Rs285 and Rs290. But at least what we are selling is pure with hardly any smell,” he concluded.

Published in Dawn, March 27th, 2024

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