The national auditor in a report on a flagship government scheme that gives free cooking gas to the poor and underprivileged families has highlighted the risk of diversion of domestic LPG cylinders for commercial use. "Risk of diversion of domestic cylinders for commercial use was noticed as 1.98 lakh PMUY beneficiaries had an average annual consumption of more than 12 cylinders which seems improbable in view of their BPL status," the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India said in its latest report.
"13.96 lakh beneficiaries under PMUY consumed three to 41 refills in a month," the CAG said in the report on the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY), a scheme designed to give clean cooking fuel to Below Poverty Line (BPL) families. The PMUY was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in May 2016.
"Encouraging the sustained usage of LPG remains a big challenge as the annual average refill consumption of 1.93 crore PMUY consumers (who have completed more than one year as on March 31, 2018) was only 3.66 refills, as worked out by the audit," the CAG said.
Under the PMUY, five crore cooking gas connections have been given to BPL families with a support of Rs 1,600 per connection. The gas connections are in the name of women in the beneficiary families.
"The government is taking steps to use direct-benefit transfer to stop pilferage. The CAG has said there is a risk of diversion of domestic cylinders for commercial use. The government is committed to taking steps to stop any pilferage," Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman told reporters today.
The CAG said it found several gaps in how oil marketing companies (OMCs) implanted the government scheme. "...Issuance of LPG connections by the LPG distributors to unintended beneficiaries, deficiencies in the LPG software of the OMCs in identification of intended beneficiaries and deficiencies in de-duplication process" were some of the issues the CAG identified in the report.
Under the PMUY, while the government will pay connection charges, the OMCs will provide an option for new consumers to choose for monthly payment (EMIs), if she so desires, to cover the cost of a cooking stove and first refill.
The EMI amount may be recovered by the OMCs from the subsidy amount due to the consumer on each refill.