EDITORIAL: What is cooking?

It has become necessary to make the rationing mechanism of the scarce commodities effective so that malpractices are minimized

At a time when the Nepali people should be celebrating the festivals with revelry they are reeling from acute shortages of fuel, including cooking gas. Because of the blockade imposed on Nepal, there is also a shortage of medicines as well as oxygen cylinders, among other things. Many hotels have to shut down due to lack of cooking gas not to talk about the ordinary people. These days cooking gas, diesel and petrol have become the scarcest commodities in the country and are no longer openly available in the marketplace -- in the capital city as well as other parts of the country. The consumers are getting desperate. Some of the eateries use firewood in order to cook and also the households. And others have closed for lack of fuel. Firewood is also getting scarce and difficult to procure and its price has quadrupled. These days it is difficult to buy any kind of heater from earthen electric heaters to modern induction heaters in the market. These are convenient for cooking but they rely on electricity whose supply is not wholly reliable. With the onset of the winter, the periods of power outages will be longer. This will put the people in a quandary.

It is alleged that the cooking fuel meant for the common man is being sold at highly inflated prices to some hotels and such establishments or whoever may pay four or five times the normal price. The hotels now have an occupancy of only around 25 per cent even in this peak tourist season. If we are to play according to the rules, the LPG gas should only be sold by dealers in the presence of security personnel. On Saturday, the gas was planned to be distributed by all the 16 bottling plants in Kathmandu to the dealers, which number about 800, at half the weight and half the price. Many people stood in serpentine queues at the gas depots for hours with their cylinders only to be disappointed in the end.

The bottling plants have been accused of not sending these gas cylinders to the dealers. The Gas Dealers’ Federation Nepal (GDFN) has accused the bottling plants of directly selling the precious fuel to hotels in the night for a high price as a result of which the common consumers were denied their share of the gas. Furthermore, the cooking gas is being distributed directly from the bottling plants. Thus, they not only make a hefty profit but avoid commissions to the dealers. It is alleged that Rs. 60 would be saved by the bottling plants on each gas cylinder. The dealers are also responsible for this scenario for some of them have been caught hoarding the LPG gas cylinders. However, the Nepal LP Gas Industry Association has denied any wrong-doing on their part, and that they had failed to dispatch the cylinders as the cylinders yet had to be refilled presumably because of their scarcity and inability to meet the demands. Let us hope that this association will abide by their pledges and dispatch the cylinders refilled with a limited amount of LPG from the bottling plants soon. It has become necessary to make the rationing mechanism of the scarce commodities effective so that malpractices are minimized.

Traffic management

Sound traffic management is necessary for safe and smooth travel, for both vehicles and pedestrians. Traffic management includes regulating the flow of traffic and putting in place various traffic rules and enforcing them. It also includes spreading public awareness about these matters and training drivers and the general public about how to contribute to smooth traffic and how to avoid accidents.

But in the Kathmandu Valley alone, the ratio of traffic police to the number of vehicles is reported to be far below accepted international standards. This has given rise to various traffic problems, including avoidable accidents. The Metropolitan Traffic Police Division currently has 965 personnel, which means that one cop has to manage 764 vehicles and cover 1.65 km. Given the level of traffic sense drivers and pedestrians have in Nepal, the thin presence of traffic police often leads to various traffic violations and accidents and to the greater possibility of offenders going away scot-free. Indeed, the installation of CCTV cameras at 200 points has helped the traffic cops to do their duty better. But they are still inadequate. Therefore, both traffic manpower and use of modern technology should be sufficiently increased.