Consumers forum mulls filing PIL over LPG subsidy issue

The city-based Gas and Ration Consumers Forum is contemplating filing a public interest litigation (PIL) against attempts to making Aadhaar Card compulsory for availing LPG subsidy.

The Forum president K. Dharmendra told The Hindu on Wednesday that he sent notices to the three oil companies in the district with copies to the Karnataka High Court, the Supreme Court, the Prime Minister and the Ministry of Oil and Natural Gas in New Delhi.

Pointing out that the Supreme Court order clarified that Aadhaar cannot be made compulsory for availing any government benefit including LPG subsidy, he said the three oil companies were violating the order. “This amounts to contempt of court,” he said.

Though his group had sought to know the reason why action should not be initiated against the three companies for sending SMSes to LPG consumers saying they will have to link their Aadhaar numbers to avail subsidy.

District involvement

Recently, in-charge Deputy Commissioner Thulasi Maddineni had told The Hindu that the oil companies were insisting on linking Aadhaar cards for LPG subsidies, and that the district administration was not involved.

Mr. Dharmendra said the district administration too would be made a party in the petition as it had insisted on linking Aadhaar card before April 1 to avail LPG subsidy. He said the group would bring to the notice of the High Court that those who link their Aadhaar cards would be made to pay about Rs. 120 towards taxes.

The PIL would seek status quo to be maintained.

Rejecting the argument that oil companies were resorting to linking Aadhaar numbers to avoid black marketing of LPG cylinders, he said they could constitute vigilance squads to check any such activities.

Convenor of a consumer organisation and district convenor of NGO Apna Desh K. Ashok Bhat said consumers could approach Dakshina Kannada District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum for relief if they were denied the subsidy for not linking their Aadhaar cards to their bank accounts and LPG connections.

Many consumer organisation representatives whom The Hindu spoke to said the government was trying to impose Aadhaar cards on people through the backdoor after Supreme Court struck it down and were harassing the LPG consumers.

Convenor of Balakedarara Hitarakshana Samiti of Puttur Nithananda Pai, convenors of Balakedarara Hitarakshana Vedike, Surathkal, Balakrishna Rao and Shriranga Hosabettu; and Mangaluru Balkedarara Vedike Convenor Addoor Krishna Rao also observed that the attempts to insist on Aadhaar cards for LPG subsidy amounted to contempt of the highest court of the land.

IOC Reaction

Corporate Communication Department of Indian Oil Corporation, Chennai, clarified that consumers were only being requested to link their Aadhaar cards to the banks and LPG connections but it was not compulsory. Whether those who do not comply will get LPG subsidy from April 1 will depend on the direction of the government. IOC’s Chennai-based Chief Corporate Communication Manager Vetri Selva Kumar denied that those who link their Aadhaar cards will be made to pay taxes of Rs. 120. “They will get the entire subsidy,” he said.

‘Lead drive against Aadhaar’

S.R. Nayak of V.T. Road, a retired banker, is among the many LPG consumers in the city who have been receiving SMSes from oil companies.

The two identical SMSes he received read: “Dear Consumer, to avail LPG subsidy in your bank account, kindly submit your Aadhaar card to your distributor and to your bank account immediately.”

Calling the SMS a contempt of court, Mr. Nayak said Mangalore should be the first city to fight against this. “We should send mass petitions (to courts),” he told The Hindu,adding that he would approach the Gas and Ration Consumer Forum in this regard.

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