LPG stocks to run out dry from Saturday in Sikkim if no replenishmen

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Gangtok, Jun 12 (UNI) The rapidly disintegration of political violence in neighbouring Darjeeling district of West Bengal is taking a heavy economic toll on Sikkim as the state was forced to ration the distribution of essential items like LPG and fuel due to being cut off for the past two days.

The LPG stock of Sikkim will last only upto this Saturday, officials said here signaling an impending crisis for the strategic himalayan state.

Officials here said that rationing of petrol, diesel and LPG cylinders began from yesterday in the face of the two days strike by Gorkha Janmukti Morcha in Darjeeling.

Compounding the woes of Sikkimese people, the relaxation of the GJM bandh was negated by a 48-hour bandh call by Amra Bangali in Siliguri which started from today.

Fifteen LPG tankers from Ranidanga depot in West Bengal were ready for movement today but it did not take place due to the bandh in Siliguri, said Menla Ethanpa, General Manager of State Trading Corporation of Sikkim (STCS) which distributes LPG in the state.

"We have started rationing of LPG cylinders from yesterday and if replenishment does not take place by tomorrow, there are chances that Sikkim will go completely dry," said Ethanpa.

LPG supply from Ranidanga depot is stored at Bagheykhola bottling plant near Rangpo. The plant has a capacity to take stock upto three days only.

The proposal to have an Army escort for Sikkim tankers along the troubled NH 31A, the life line of the state also failed due to threats to the drivers by the picketers.

The Indian Oil Corporation informed the Sikkim government that transport of tankers under Army escort was not possible as the drivers have been warned by the picketeers that they will be beaten up when normalcy returned.

Meanwhile, Sikkim was also cut off today from rest of the country for the third consecutive day following the Siliguri bandh.

No vehicles entered Sikkim from Siliguri and vice versa as drivers preferred to stay off roads with reports of Sikkim vehicles being damaged by protestors reached the taxi syndicates.

An emergency meeting was called by the Chief Secretary with all the line departments to tackle the new turn of events as the state was till yesterday, comfortable with the 60 hours relaxation by GJM.

Buses and trucks under state transport also stayed off roads fueling fears of shortage of essential food items and more economic losses for the state.

A report prepared by Directorate of Economics, Monitoring and Evaluation (DESME) computes the economic loss of Sikkim to a humble Rs.5.95 crore per day during the NH 31 A blockade during the GJM sponsored bandh from February 22 to 24.

And this economic loss took place during a period that is accepted as on off season for economic activity in Sikkim. Business suffered, passenger vehicles stayed off roads and state government lost losses in revenue from VAT, Sales Tax and excise duty.

Chief Minister Pawan Chamling had on repeated occasions said that Sikkim has to always suffer because of internal problems of West Bengal.

This figure could easily treble during the three day bandh in neighbouring Darjeeling district which is expected to prolong much further.

The continued delink of Sikkim has triggered price hike on vegetables and grocery items.

Sikkim government has already faxed messages to both the West Bengal and Union governments highlighting the problems Sikkim was facing and has demanded para-military force to man the NH 31A for ensuring smooth supply of essential commodities.

So far, no response has been forthcoming.

UNI BG PC RN1526

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