Gas cylinder subsidy will be transferred only to those consumers who get their Aadhar number linked to LPG consumer number, insists petroleum ministry in spite of the Supreme Court order to the contrary… As different arms of the Government work on parallel lines, unnecessary complexities are being created…
In blatant violation of Supreme Court orders, the Union Petroleum Ministry continues with its stand on linking Aadhar numbers with LPG cylinder subsidy. The Ministry and the three oil companies that supply gas cylinders to consumers have given a grace period (varying from city to city) to consumers across the country to update their Aadhar number with their LPG consumer numbers failing which people without Aadhar won’t be eligible for any subsidy. Aadhar is a 12-digit unique number issued by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), a body formed by an executive order.
In a press release issued recently, the Ministry stated: “At the end of grace period of each phase, LPG cylinders will be sold to all domestic LPG consumers at market price. However, the subsidy will be transferred to only those who have linked Aadhar number to LPG consumer number and bank account and others will not get any subsidy.” The call centre executives of oil industry helpline available at toll-free number 18002333555 will inform LPG subscribers about the grace period which varies from region to region. ForDelhi and Mumbai where direct benefit transfer for LPG (DBTL) is being implemented, the grace period is 90 days. When Down to Earth asked the helpline staff about what would happen to consumers who don’t have Aadhar number, the reply was terse: “You won’t get any subsidy and have to buy at market price only.”
The call centre staff said the grace period varies from the time DBTL is launched in a district. Currently, LPG subsidy is around Rs 550 per cylinder and with a limit of nine cylinders in a financial year, the subsidy adds up to Rs 4,950 a year.
Violation of SC order
The action and response by the Petroleum Ministry and oil companies has come despite the apex court bench saying that the “Centre and the state Governments must not insist on Aadhar cards from citizens before providing them essential services”. The direction was given last September. Criticising UIDAI in its order, the apex court had said the Aadhar number is not necessary for important services. The apex court passed the order stating the Aadharr was “voluntary” in nature. The directions had come following public interest petition filed by K S Puttaswamy, a retired judge of the Karnataka High Court.
The Petroleum Ministry seems does not appear to be bothered by the apex court order. The Ministry states that the DBTL scheme so far has been a “stupendous success”. More than 40 million cash transfers to the consumer bank accounts has been made wherein a total sum of over Rs 2,000 crore has been transferred to beneficiaries. It claimed that the scheme aims to curb leakages and prevent black-marketing and provide subsidy to the consumers to their bank accounts.
Pulling out all the stops
The Ministry along with three oil marketing companies that have been providing LPG cylinders under brand names Indane, Bharat Gas and HP Gas are undertaking various initiatives to ensure linking of Aadhar with LPG subsidy. The four are advertising on their websites and leading dailies, asking people to avail of LPG subsidy through Aadhar. Drop boxes to collect bank-aadhar linking forms have been placed at all distributor offices and emails and phone messages are being sent. Besides, cash memos are also being stamped to communicate need for Aadhar linkage to get subsidy in bank account.
As per the scheme, all Aadhar-linked domestic LPG consumers are getting an advance in their bank account as soon as they book their first subsidised cylinder before delivery. On the delivery of the first subsidised cylinder, the next subsidy gets transferred to their bank account, which is available fo the purchase of the next subsidised cylinder at market rate. Despite repeated attempts, officials from oil Ministry were not available for comments.
WHO OWNS OUR IDENTITY?
Between the seemingly lax Aadhar of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) and the stricter KYR+ of NPR, which comes under the Ministry of Home Affairs, is a messy universe of verification and authentication that is complicating the lives of the poor, with no guarantee of the much promised “social inclusion” at the end of it all. If anything, Down To Earth’s investigations have shown that the Unique Identification (UID) programme is as prone to being a tool of exclusion as it is of ensuring the benefits of welfare schemes…
–By Latha Jishnu
Yattan Bibi, scrubber of floors and cleaner of dishes (other people’s), has spent the past six months visiting a number of Government departments, bank offices and “camps” in different schools. All this to get her identity proven—again and again. It’s a bureaucratic obstacle race that’s tired her out but the hope of getting some kind of dole “for my old age when my limbs get weak” keeps this unlettered woman stubbornly on the paper chase. Most of the time she has no clue quite what is expected of her, much less why.
In recent weeks, armed with her tattered ration card and an old bank passbook which are her most prized assets, Yattan Bibi has piled up an impressive number of documents. Thanks to her ration card she has got an Aadhar number, which is software czar Nandan Nilekani’s “gift” of a unique identity to the millions he says have been left out of the system because they have no documents to prove who they are. The unique 12-digit number is not an open sesame however. It did not help Yattan Bibi open a special public sector bank account for pension of Rs 600 a month under the Delhi Government’s Dilli Annshree Yojana. The bank says Aadhar is not a valid proof of residence. It has, instead, asked for a voter ID card or a permanent account number (PAN) card to prove her bonafides.
As different arms of the Government work on parallel lines, unnecessary complexities are being created. Officially, Aadhar registration is voluntary but it is implicitly compulsory since there is the threat of denial of services. Enrolment with the National Population Register (NPR), on the other hand is mandatory, and C Chandramouli, Registrar General and Census Commissioner of India, who runs NPR has sent out a warning that the time for filling in the Know Your Resident Plus (KYR+) form is running out. The KYR+ will, eventually, result in the ultimate proof of identity, a citizenship card with the Aadhar number on it. Or so we are promised.
Between the seemingly lax Aadhar of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) and the stricter KYR+ of NPR, which comes under the Ministry of Home Affairs, is a messy universe of verification and authentication that is complicating the lives of the poor, with no guarantee of the much promised “social inclusion” at the end of it all. If anything, Down To Earth’s investigations have shown that the Unique Identification (UID) programme is as prone to being a tool of exclusion as it is of ensuring the benefits of welfare schemes. Across the country, workers are being denied their wages because authentication machines fail to match their fingerprints with the UIDAI database. Forget the iris scans because we don’t have the money for such sophisticated machines. Above all is the overarching question of safety and likely misuse of data.