In Sept, the Centre had fixed a cap on the number of cooking gas cylinders and made it clear that each household/consumer will get just six LPG refills at a subsidised rate in a year. If any consumer required additional LPG refills, he or she will have to pay the prevailing market rate that is nearly double the subsidised rate at present.
Since the decision was announced when the first half of the fiscal was about to end, every household could only look forward to getting three subsidised LPG cylinders in the remaining six months.
All the opposition parties and even important constituents of the UPA had strongly opposed the Centre's decision. Demanding that the cap on LPG cylinders be raised, the opposition organised a Bharat Bandh.
Despite being a part of the ruling coalition, DMK openly backed the stir. As if that was not embarrassing enough for the UPA, the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress and another small Jharkhand-based party withdrew support to it thereby leaving the coalition in a minority.
The Congress tried to limit the damage by stating that consumers in states ruled by the party will get nine subsidised LPG refills every year but the Kerala government strangely seemed reluctant to give relief to people of the state though the Congress is in power.
Chandy initially stressed that those living below the poverty line will be provided nine subsidised LPG cylinders while others will receive a maximum of six. However, many of the parties in the United Democratic Front (UDF) were of the opinion that Congress should go in for a rethink.
At yesterday's cabinet meeting, these allies finally forced the Chief Minister to raise the cap. Later, Chandy told newspersons that he will abide by the UDF's recommendation.
"The cabinet has decided to raise the number of cylinders from six as decided by the Centre to a maximum of nine, subject to the usage of the previous year," Chandy said.
What his statement means is that if a family had actually used seven or eight cylinders in 2010-11, they will not get nine LPG refills in 2011-12. "The maximum one house gets will depend on last year's usage but none will get more than nine," the CM added.
The main opposition party is still not satisfied. Pinarayi Vijayan, state secretary of the CPI-M, called for the supply of at least 12 cooking gas cylinders to each household.
Anyway, the Kerala government will have to spend Rs 120 crore extra to supply nine subsidised LPG refills to all households in the state.