As a result, black marketeering is on the rise, with consumers forced to buy cylinders at prices ranging between Rs 1,500 and Rs 2,000 apiece.
The 17 LPG distributors in the three Barak valley districts of Cachar, Karimganj and Hailakandi, are being flooded with demands from the 1,23,600-odd consumers.
But according to Sanjoy Das Purakayastha, owner of an IOC agency, the 17 distributors have been able to procure only 52,038 cylinders against the demand for 1,40,000.
Last week, an NGO in Cachar district, Grahak Suraksha Samity gheraoed the IOC’s area officer Lalit Kumar Doley for an hour, protesting against the “unprecedented scarcity” of cooking gas in the Barak valley districts.
The scene is no different in adjoining Mizoram, where the availability of LPG cylinders from the Mualkhang bottling plant has touched rock bottom.
Chief minister Lalthan-hawla has expressed concern at the dwindling supply of cylinders and asked the civil supplies department to keep a close vigil on hotels and eateries in Mizoram to ensure they only use commercial cooking gas cylinders.
According to Mizoram food and civil supplies minister H. Rohluna, only 1,200 gas cylinders reached the state last month, against the present monthly demand of about 2,000 cylinders.
The minister had to rush to Guwahati along with state civil supplies secretary M. Zohingthangi last week to talk to senior officials of the four main suppliers of cooking gas- IOC refineries in Guwahati and Duliajan, Assam Oil refinery in Digboi and Numaligarh Refinery Limited (NRL).
Rohluna said no immediate solution to end the shortage had emerged, despite his meeting with the officials.
A senior IOC official here said the crisis has been fuelled by “unavoidable technical flaws” at the IOC plants early this year, causing shutdown of the units in Guwahati and Duliajan.
He said a fire had damaged the Numaligarh plant in April, crippling its operation. The refinery is the biggest supplier of cylinders. Moreover, he said the gas bottling plant at Borkhola block of IOC had been calling back old cylinders for testing and were taking time in putting around 19,000 cylinders back into circulation, which added to the crisis.