The distribution of free cooking gas cylinders from April-June was highlighted as a feather in the cap by the government, in the midst of the pandemic. However, data available with the government shows that only 49.6 per cent of the targeted free cylinders were distributed during the period.
Given that the target was to reach 80.34 million families under Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY) — within three months starting April 1 — the government should have distributed at least 241.02 million cylinders by the end of June.
The government, however, distributed only 119.7 million liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) cylinders. Though the government expected an outgo of Rs 13,500 crore with respect to the scheme, only Rs 9,710 crore was transferred directly into the bank accounts of Ujjwala beneficiaries, as of June 30.
The government on Wednesday offered relief to beneficiaries who are yet to utilise the advance credited to their account. This will benefit PMUY beneficiaries who have been credited with the advance for buying the cylinder, but have not been able to purchase the refill.
Therefore, beneficiaries with the advance in their account may now take free refill delivery till September 30. The free LPG cylinder scheme was part of the relief package ‘Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana’, aimed at providing a safety net to the poor and vulnerable.
The low rate of refills by Ujjwala beneficiaries was a major reason. The annual rate of refills by Ujjwala consumers was a mere 2.9 cylinder per connection according to industry sources, though a report by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) pegged it at 3.21.
chartNevertheless, the free LPG scheme has helped improve consumption numbers. LPG consumption recorded year-on-year growth of 12.8 per cent for May.
There were criticisms levelled at the manner in which IndianOil Corporation, Bharat Petroleum Corporation, and Hindustan Petroleum Corporation implemented the scheme.
“To achieve the target, company executives advised distributors to initiate 100 per cent booking for PMUY beneficiaries, even if the beneficiaries didn’t approach them. Some OMCs even activated auto booking. When these methods failed due to actual low demand from beneficiaries, the same executives started pressurising/threatening distributors to either deliver the booked refills, or get ready for bulk transfer of their connections to other distributors. This compelled them to divert the refill, in order to accomplish their targets,” said the Federation of LPG Distributors of India, in a letter to the companies.
According to the letter, 22 per cent of Ujjwala beneficiaries have not taken refills since inception of the scheme. It added that 5-7 per cent of the beneficiaries had not even received the amount for the first refill.