Though the oil marketing companies (OMCs) have been able to issue a staggering 3.25 crore liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) connections in 2016-17, they have fallen well short of the target when it comes to initiating the process to award 10,000 new LPG distributor licences in the year. In the last financial year, 777 distributorships were commissioned and letters of intent of around 1,150 were issued. In addition, 1,531 locations have been advertised for and the selection process is on apart from 59 distributorship being awarded on nomination basis, bringing the total to around 3,500.
In April 2016, petroleum minister Dharmendra Pradhan had said 10,000 LPG distributors will be appointed within the financial year when he had gone to Balia in Uttar Pradesh to oversee preparations for the launch of Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana, a scheme to provide free LPG connections to women belonging to the below-poverty-line households. Later in June 3, a government release on unified guidelines for LPG distributorship reiterated the target.
“Unified guidelines will pave the way for a more broad-based, participative and transparent system of selection of distributors across the country. In this year, the oil marketing companies will start the process for selection of new distributors in 10,000 new locations. Setting up of these new distributorships will give a tremendous boost to the rural employment opportunities,” the release had noted.
At present, there are 19.9 crore active LPG households in the country and the number of distributors at the start of 2016-17 was around 18,000. “We planned to initiate the process for 10,000 distributorship but that could not be materialised,” said a person close to the development requesting anonymity.
To hasten the process of rejecting or awarding LPG distributorship licence to applicants, the central government has asked district authorities to take a decision on no-objection certificates (NOCs) for prospective distributors within a month of receiving applications. An NOC is required for LPG godown site but the process involves at least 11 line departments making it a long-drawn process, as reported by FE earlier.
The oil ministry’s internal cell now uses a scientific method to identify per capita consumption potential of different area to advertise for distributorship. In addition, OMCs have also entrusted an independent agency which identifies clusters through geo-spatial mapping and algorithm to identify habitation areas which requires distributorship. “This data is then cross-checked with field level officers as well before advertising,” said the person quoted above.
Utilising this method, another 4,000 locations —mainly in rural India — have been identified for advertisement keeping in mind that refills under the Ujjwala scheme would be required mostly in these areas.