Gas cylinder subsidy will be transferred only to those consumers who get their Aadhar number linked to LPG consumer number, insists petroleum ministry in spite of Supreme Court order to the contrary
In blatant violation of Supreme Court orders, the Union petroleum ministry continues with its stand on linking Aadhar numbers with LPG cylinder subsidy. The ministry and the three oil companies that supply gas cylinders to consumers have given a grace period (varying from city to city) to consumers across the country to update their Aadhaar number with their LPG consumer numbers failing which people without Aadhaar won’t be eligible for any subsidy. Aadhaar is a 12-digit unique number issued by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), a body formed by an executive order.
In a press release issued on Monday, the ministry stated: “At the end of grace period of each phase, LPG cylinders will be sold to all domestic LPG consumers at market price. However, the subsidy will be transferred to only those who have linked Aadhaar number to LPG consumer number and bank account and others will not get any subsidy.”
The call centre executives of oil industry helpline available at toll-free number 18002333555 will inform LPG subscribers about the grace period which varies from region to region. For Delhi and Mumbai where direct benefit transfer for LPG (DBTL) is being implemented today onwards, the grace period is 90 days. When Down to Earth asked the helpline staff about what would happen to consumers who don’t have Aadhaar number, the reply was terse: “You won’t get any subsidy and have to buy at market price only.”
The call centre staff said the grace period varies from the time DBTL is launched in a district. Currently, LPG subsidy is around Rs 550 per cylinder and with a limit of nine cylinders in a financial year, the subsidy adds up to Rs 4,950 a year.
Violation of SC order
The action and response by the petroleum ministry and oil companies has come despite the apex court bench saying that the “Centre and the state governments must not insist on Aadhar cards from citizens before providing them essential services”. The direction was given last September.
Criticising UIDAI in its order, the apex court had said the Aadhar number is not necessary for important services. The apex court passed the order stating the Aadharr was "voluntary" in nature. The directions had come following public interest petition filed by K S Puttaswamy, a retired judge of the Karnataka High Court.
The petroleum ministry seems does not appear to be bothered by the apex court order. The ministry states that the DBTL scheme so far has been a “stupendous success”. More than 40 million cash transfers to the consumer bank accounts has been made wherein a total sum of over Rs 2,000 crore has been transferred to beneficiaries. It claimed that the scheme aims to curb leakages and prevent black-marketing and provide subsidy to the consumers to their bank accounts.
Pulling out all the stops
The ministry along with three oil marketing companies that have been providing LPG cylinders under brand names Indane, Bharat Gas and HP Gas are undertaking various initiatives to ensure linking of Aadhar with LPG subsidy. The four are advertising on their websites and leading dailies, asking people to avail of LPG subsidy through Aadhar. Drop boxes to collect bank-aadhar linking forms have been placed at all distributor offices and emails and phone messages are being sent. Besides, cash memos are also being stamped to communicate need for Aadhar linkage to get subsidy in bank account.
As per the scheme, all Aadhaar-linked domestic LPG consumers are getting an advance in their bank account as soon as they book their first subsidised cylinder before delivery. On the delivery of the first subsidised cylinder, the next subsidy gets transferred to their bank account, which is available fo the purchase of the next subsidized cylinder at market rate.
Despite repeated attempts, officials from oil ministry were not available for comments.
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