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Thursday, May 2, 2013

domestic LPG cylinders ~ no subsidy if no Aadhar....... !!!!


Heard of UIDAI ?  ~ do you venture to your kitchen ? – do you know that cooking done by LPG is presently subsidized and that there is much noise over the price………  modern day children may perhaps not know that half a century ago, people used to cook using firewood; that there were depots in each locality selling firewood; Triplicane has Firewood depot Street……. Later they moved to ‘pumping stoves’ – stoves that used kerosene……

Kerosene the combustible hydrocarbon liquid was rationed and sold through ration shops…….people had to wait long hours for getting kerosene.. there used to vehicles [hand pulled ones  as also pedaled with a single tank storage] that would come on the streets, selling kerosene in retail at your doorsteps, albeit at a higher price than the controlled rate……

The gas cylinders revolutionized the way food is cooked; preparing morning cup of coffee was never this easier.  In the 1970s, not all household had gas cylinders and people feared cooking in gas stove.  Domestic LPG today is subsidized and hence are distributed only by public sector Oil marketing companies. LPG for domestic cooking purposes is available in 14.2Kg capacity cylinders with authorized LPG distributors. The prices are regularly spiralling up. Last year Govt  created lots of confusion by first announcing 3 and then 6 as the no. of cylinders that would be supplied at subsidized rates. 

Presently, from April 2013,  each household will get nine subsidised cooking gas cylinders for the next 12 months, against six earlier. Also, consumers will get a quota of five subsidised cylinders for the period September 2012-March 2013, against three earlier. The Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs (CCPA), under the Chairmanship of the Prime Minister, took these decisions after obtaining a go-ahead from the Election Commission. This was required as elections have been announced in the three north-eastern States of Mizoram, Meghalaya and Tripura.

There was a time, when you visited or telephoned your local dealer to have your LPG cylinder booked ~ this system also changed as Oil Marketing Companies moved to centralized system for proper control.  Now, the customer places a refill request to the distributor through various channels i.e., manual / telephone / IVRS / SMS and web.  The refill request is updated automatically; distributor generates a cash memo; customer gets a SMS on this; delivery boy carries the printed copy of cash memo along with the cylinder; delivery boy places the laden cylinder, takes delivery of the empty cylinder and collects payment [the subsidized rate as billed]; the customer acknowledges by signing on the delivery memo, which gets upated on the distributor application. 

If you ever felt happy and comfortable even in dreams, perhaps Govt would step in to make it more complicated, unintelligible to common men and make their lives more worrisome.  Now comes the news that LPG consumers without Aadhar cards may have to pay more than double the price for LPG cylinders from October as the Centre is planning to link subsidy on cooking gas to the cards. Gas Cylinder and Aadhar…….. bemused….  statistics compiled by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) shows that Tamil Nadu has the lowest number of Aadhaar cards, in the South.  LPG distributors state that  even those with the cards will have to buy cylinders at non-subsidized rates. The government would later transfer the subsidy amount to the customer's bank account.

Govt is hell-bent on making its Direct Cash transfer scheme a grand hit.   It is learnt that with the first phase of rollout of direct cash transfer (DCT) scheme for LPG expected to begin from May 15, the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) has called for speedier linkage between bank accounts and Aadhaar number.  According to newspaper reports, that Banks have been urged to accelerate the opening of accounts for those individuals who have an Aadhaar number.  To avail the subsidy scheme the beneficiary must give his Aadhaar card number to the LPG distributor and the bank. The LPG distributor will give the Aadhaar number to the oil marketing companies (OMCs) who in turn will turn will transfer money to the beneficiaries' account. Once the DBT scheme is in place, LPG consumers in districts where Aadhar penetration is more than 80% will get about R4,000 per annum in cash from the government, and they will have to then buy LPG at market price of R901.50 per 14.2kg cylinder. Banks have been told to run more education programmes to draw Aadhaar card holders into opening bank accounts. Some banks have already started informing customers through different mode of communication, including SMS about linking of Aadhaar number with the account number to facilitate subsidy transfer. Also banks are planning to place dropboxes at LPG centres so that people can drop of their Aadhar number and bank account details.

So for a refill, you need to have a Bank Account, Aadhar Unique No.; have link between the two – then pay the high price, later expect the subsidy to be transferred to your bank account.  UIDAI has issued 32 crore Aadhaar numbers till now but the problem is that only 80 lakh bank accounts have been linked with Aadhaar numbers in the country. The scheme will be launched as a pilot project in 20 districts from 15 May. Consumer has to buy LPG cylinder at the market price while the subsidy amount will be credited into its Aadhaar linked bank account. The government is hopeful that this implementation will bring an end to the problem of fake LPG connection and misuse of the LPG cylinder.

I don’t have an ‘Aadhar’ ~ not many in Tamil Nadu have it…….. in case you are wondering what is ‘Aadhar’ ~ it is a 12 digit individual identification number issued by the Unique Identification Authority of India.  The number can be used to get social benefits from both the Central and State Governments called Direct Benefit Transfer. UIDAI launched AADHAAR program in the tribal village, Tembhli, in Shahada, Nandurbar, Maharashtra on 29 September 2010. Aadhaar is meant for individuals of any age (including children) for the purpose of establishing identities. Since Aadhaar is for only individuals, it is different for all the members of a family. For deciding uniqueness of every individual, the demographic details (residence address information) of the person and his/her biometric information (photograph, iris-scan, fingerprints) is collected which is stored in a centralized database. Aadhaar is not a compulsory approach instead, it is voluntary based and any individual who is interested in having Aadhaar number for himself/herself can enrol or apply to get Aadhaar number.

And………………………………… the enrolment of Aadhaar  has been withheld and there are no centres in Tamil Nadu as of now……………...

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
2nd May 2013.

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