Despite an increase in cooking gas consumption over the last few years in the State, resulting in over 97% of households having LPG connections, the use of heavily subsidised kerosene remains high.
It is a study in contrast, people in the know say about the rather disproportionate consumption pattern of both liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) and kerosene — called superior kerosene oil (SKO) in official parlance.
This at a time when the focus elsewhere in the country is on a switch to eco-friendly, energy-efficient fuels, such as LPG and LNG, in kitchens. Such a move towards a kerosene-free State or Union Territory translates into reducing the subsidy burden. Usually, an increase in LPG connections leads to a proportionate reduction in the kerosene allocation quota for the State concerned.
Since 2015-16, when the Ujwala scheme to provide LPG connections for the economically weak began to be implemented, the kerosene allocation — predominantly for supply through the public distribution system — in Tamil Nadu has come down by 43%. From 3,41,748 kilo litres (KL) in 2015-16, the allocation came down to 1,93,776 KL in 2018-19 — a decline of 1,47,972 KL.
“The consumption remains high, since those with single LPG cylinders still draw kerosene from fair price shops. Over one-third of the total 2.02 crore LPG connections in the State are single-bottle connections,” said a retired official of the Civil Supplies Department.
The growth in consumption is also driven by the notion that kerosene is cheaper than LPG. The former is supplied at ₹13 a litre, whereas the government incurs a higher subsidy. In contrast, a kilo of subsidised LPG is sold at ₹34.17 in Chennai, at current prices.
Besides PDS supply, which is coloured blue to prevent diversion, around 500-600 KL of white, industrial kerosene is supplied to fishermen every year in Kanniyakumari, Thoothukudi and Tirunelveli districts to fuel outboard motor boats used in fishing.
What, however, remains a matter of concern is not as much the subsidy burden, as the potential misuse of the product.
Kerosene is also sometimes used as a diesel substitute in vehicles.