Members of the Opposition LDF walked out of the Assembly on Monday as Speaker G. Karthikeyan denied leave for notice for an adjournment motion on the increase in prices of LPG cylinders.

T.M. Thomas Isaac of the CPI(M), who gave notice for the motion, said the price of unsubsidised LPG cylinders had been increased by Rs. 230 each for domestic consumers and that of commercial cylinders by Rs. 386. The total expense incurred by the Centre for filling a cylinder was only Rs. 1,277. The decision to increase the prices and limit the supply of subsidised cylinders to those who seeded their Aadhaar number with bank accounts smacked of a conspiracy to stop the subsidy in phases. While the government was claiming that consumers were eligible to get nine cylinders, a majority were not even getting six cylinders. The Centre was trying to route public money to private oil companies through the subsidy.

Court ruling

He said the Supreme Court had ruled that distribution of benefits should not be linked with the Aadhaar number. The Centre had given an assurance on this. The LPG price increase had led to a rise in prices of food in hotels and restaurants and essential commodities. Inflation had made life miserable for the common man. The State government could not wrest an assurance from the Centre that the subsidy would be extended in future.

Food and Civil Supplies Minister Anoop Jacob said that cylinder distribution had been disrupted only on January 1 and 2 and was resumed on the government’s intervention. There was no room for anxiety. The time for seeding the Aadhaar number had been extended up to February 28, but the government had sought an extension for six months. The price increase would not affect customers who were eligible for nine cylinders. Steps had been taken to ensure the smooth distribution of cylinders. Action would be taken against gas agencies which refused to comply with the government directions on cylinder distribution. Chief Minister Oommen Chandy had demanded that the Centre strip oil companies of the authority to determine the prices of petrol, diesel and LPG. No eligible customer would be exempted from the subsidy net, he said. Mr. Chandy said only 57 per cent of the 77.21 lakh LPG consumers had linked their Aadhaar numbers with bank accounts. The government felt that the exemption for linking the accounts should be extended to six months. The government would hold discussions with oil companies to overcome the delay in distributing cylinders. Based on the government explanation, Mr. Karthikeyan denied leave for the notice.

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