LPG refill declines in PM Modi’s flagship Ujjwala Yojana, cylinders diverted for commercial use: CAG

According to the CAG report, under PMUY not only has there has been diversion of domestic cylinders for commercial use, but also the annual average refill consumption is falling

PM Narendra Modi with a Ujjwala beneficiary
PM Narendra Modi with a Ujjwala beneficiary

Ashlin Mathew

In a report by the central auditor Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), it has come to light that under PM Narendra Modi’s flagship scheme Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY) not only has there has been diversion of domestic cylinders for commercial use, but also the annual average refill consumption is falling on a year-to-year basis. The CAG report looked at data up to March 31, 2019.

At least 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, states the CAG report, which was tabled on Wednesday, December 11, in Parliament. Similarly, 13.96 lakh beneficiaries consumed three to 41 refills in a month.

Out of 13.96 lakh consumers, 10.09 lakh consumers have taken refills in the above range only once and the remaining 3.87 lakh consumers have taken refills 2 to 23 times which suggests that these consumers are habitual in taking more than two refills in a month.

Additionally, Indian Oil Corporation Limited (IOCL) and Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited (HPCL) in 3.44 lakh instances issued 2 to 20 refills in a day to a PMUY beneficiary having single bottle cylinder connection.

Moreover, 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 CAG audit. Similar analysis for 3.18 crore PMUY beneficiaries as on December 31, 2018, revealed that refill consumption declined to 3.21 refills per annum.

Further analysis of these 3.18 crore PMUY consumers, who had completed one year or more as on December 31, 2018, revealed that 0.56 crore (17.61%) beneficiaries never came back for second refill and 1.05 crore (33.02%) beneficiaries consumed 1 to 3 refills only.

Chhattisgarh has the lowest per annum average refill consumption of 1.61 refills, followed by Madhya Pradesh (2.38 refills), Jharkhand (2.57 refills), Odisha (2.88 refills), Assam (2.95 refills), West Bengal (3.08 refills) and Maharashtra (3.18 refills).

As a result of these dropping consumption refills by 0.92 crore loanee consumers (who had completed one year or more as on December 31, 2018), recovery of the outstanding loan of ₹1,234.71 crore has been hindered. The government, however, claims that around 87% beneficiaries have returned for at least second refill.

The perceived success of the ₹12,800 crore Ujjwala scheme, which was launched in May 2016, was the main poll plank of Prime Minster Narendra Modi in the 2019 elections. The scheme has a revised target of giving eight crore connections to women members of poor households by March 2019. These women were to be identified from Socio Economic and Caste Census (SECC) -2011 list.

Under PMUY, the government provides a subsidy of ₹1,600 to state-owned fuel retailers for every free LPG gas connection that they give to poor households. This subsidy is intended to cover the security fee for the cylinder and the fitting charges.

The beneficiary, who is supposed to be a woman, was required to buy her own stove. The scheme also allowed beneficiaries to pay for the stove and the first refill in monthly instalments, but the cost of the subsequent refills had to be paid by the beneficiary.

However, according to the performance audit report, due to lack of input validation checks in the IOCL software, 1.88 lakh connections were released against Abridged Household List Temporary Identification Numbers (AHL TINs) of men.

This is not all. As a result of the lack of input validation check in IOCL software, 0.80 lakh connections were issued to beneficiaries aged below 18 years. Similarly, data analysis revealed that 8.59 lakh connections were released to beneficiaries who were minor as per Socio Economic and Caste Census-2011 data which was in violation of PMUY guidelines and LPG Control Order, 2000. Also, 42,187 LPG connections were released against invalid AHL TINs which did not exist in SECC-2011 data.

The list of issues with the flagship scheme are many. Data analysis revealed mismatch in the names of 12.46 lakh beneficiaries between PMUY database and SECC-2011 data. Further, a field audit revealed that AHL TINs of 784 (18% of 4,348 KYCs verified) intended beneficiaries were used by LPG distributors to extend benefits to un-intended persons.

In what may seem quite odd, a comparison of LPG database with SECC-2011 list revealed that the date of birth of 8,465 PMUY beneficiaries was more than 100 years as per the SECC-2011 data, but their ages in the LPG database was much different.

Cautioning the government, the CAG report stated that the variation in the age between SECC data and LPG database raises concerns regarding genuineness of these beneficiaries and misuse of the AHL TIN of these individuals for release of connections to ineligible beneficiaries.

On the directives of the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, at least ₹261.85 crore, which came through the Corporate Social Responsibility pool, has been lying idle with the ministry. The CAG report has caustically remarked that it could have been “utilised elsewhere in other deserving projects”.

The Oil Marketing Companies had issued 7.19 crore LPG connections as of March 31, 2019, which is approximately 90% of the target of eight crore connections to be issued till March 2020.

In the light of declining refills, the CAG report also points out that PMUY beneficiaries in nil/low consumption category need to be encouraged for sustained usage.

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