The petroleum ministry has managed to cover over 60% of the country’s 150 million Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) consumers under the modified version of the Direct Benefit Transfer in LPG (DBTL) scheme launched nationwide on 1 January.
The scheme, nicknamed Pratyaksh Hastantarit Labh (PAHAL), is the largest cash transfer program in the world. It aims at directly transferring cash subsidy on cooking gas into the bank accounts of consumers thereby weeding out duplication and plug leakages.
“As on date, 90 million consumers have already joined the scheme and will receive subsidy directly into their bank accounts,” according to the petroleum ministry.
The government has so far transferred over Rs 2,262 crore as subsidy and Permanent Advance in over 70 million transactions to the LPG consumers. Overall, a total of Rs 7,269 crore has been transferred as LPG subsidy under the scheme.
The states where the growth in consumers joining the scheme has been maximum (more than 40%) include Odisha, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, UP, Assam and Meghalaya. Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Uttarakhand, Jammu & Kashmir and Arunachal Pradesh occupy the second rank, with growth rate of above 35% in number of people joining the scheme.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had earlier this month voluntarily given up use of subsidised LPG, joining a growing list of well-to-do people who have opted to buy cooking gas at market rate. Petroleum minister Dharmendra Pradhan, Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi and power minister Piyush Goyal are among the others who have given up LPG subsidy.
Public sector Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs) have given an option to existing LPG consumers to convert their existing domestic LPG connection into a non-subsidised domestic connection. This can be done by submitting a written request to the distributor or electronically via www.mylpg.in.
The original DBTL scheme was launched by the previous United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government by enabling cash transfer through linking of bank accounts with Aadhaar numbers. The scheme had to be stopped after Supreme Court observed Aadhaar numbers cannot be a proof of citizenship.
The NDA government had restarted DBTL in 54 districts in mid-November of 2014. Under the current scheme, consumers are getting three months of grace period to link their connections with bank account and Aadhaar. Even after March, if their bank account details are not available, they will have to buy LPG cylinders at the market price. But the subsidy will be stored in an escrow account which they will receive as soon as they link their connections.
Under the scheme, linking the beneficiaries’ bank account with Aadhaar is not mandatory even as the government is encouraging consumers to link their connections with both bank accounts as well as the Unique Identification (UID) number. Linking with Aadhaar is expected to weed out fakes and duplicates from the system.
Consumers are currently entitled to twelve 14.2-kg cylinders or 34 five-Kg bottles in a year at subsidised rates. Any requirement above that has to be procured at market price. A subsidised 14.2-kg cylinder is currently available at Rs 417 per bottle in Delhi. The subsidised cooking gas is also available in 5-kg packs, costing Rs 155 per cylinder in Delhi.
India has 152.4 million active LPG customers and around 90 million have already become cash transfer compliant. Of these, 55 million are Aadhar based. In addition, 18.3 million LPG customers had seeded their Aadhaar number with the LPG distributors as on 10 January. The government intends to cover 75% of the eligible customers by 28 February.