The Centre may be struggling to convince LPG consumers to link their Aadhaar card numbers with their bank accounts. But that has not stopped it from going ahead with an October 1 launch of the direct benefit transfer (DBT) scheme for a majority of the 14 crore consumers.
The government convened a meeting of 121 district magistrates from various parts of the country on Monday to discuss the launch of the scheme in phases from July 1. The plan is to extend it to the majority of the LPG consumers on the rolls of the oil marketing companies (OMCs) by October 1, subject to their coverage under the Aadhaar scheme.
A consumer has to seed his or her bank account with the Aadhaar number to get the LPG subsidy transferred directly into his-or-her account. The annual subsidy per consumer is estimated at Rs. 4,000. The supply of subsidised LPG cylinder has been capped at 9 a year per consumer.
The OMCs have started asking customers to register their Aadhaar card numbers with them. However, several consumers are refusing to share the numbers with the banks. “We have had only 20 to 30 per cent success rate in pilot projects launched in 20 districts. Consumers are ready to give Aadhaar numbers to the OMCs but not to the banks. There is also the issue of Aadhaar penetration, which is very patchy in different parts of the country,” a senior Petroleum Ministry official said.
While about 32 crore Aadhaar cards have been issued by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), only 80 lakh bank accounts have been linked to the unique identity numbers so far, officials said. Consumers will have to buy LPG cylinder at the prevailing market price (currently Rs. 901.50 per 14.2-kg cylinder in Delhi) once the scheme becomes operational. Although, the Finance Ministry has asked public sector banks to get ready for the DBT scheme, the progress thus far does not augur well for an October 1 launch.
Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia admitted at the conference of district magistrates on Monday that it would take another 5 to 6 months to get the scheme rolling. The meeting was addressed by Finance Minister P. Chidambaram, Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh and Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Veerappa Moily.