Cooking gas scheme invites sparks from poll panel

The Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY), an important programme of the Narendra Modi government, has spelt trouble for liquefied petroleum gas (LPG or cooking gas) dealers in the five poll-bound states, as the Election Commission (EC) has sought a clarification from many of them.


This is happening even as state-run oil marketing companies (OMCs) Bharat Petroleum Corporation, Indian Oil Corporation and Hindustan Petroleum Corporation have put pressure on dealers for meeting targets under PMUY. In a letter to a distributor in Uttar Pradesh, that Business Standard got access to, one of the companies even threatened to cancel the dealer licence if the targets were not met. Under the scheme, the government is giving cooking gas connections to families below the poverty line.


A petroleum ministry official said rules were being followed. There should not be any stoppage on PMUY, as it was an ongoing scheme.


Elections to the Uttar Pradesh (UP), Punjab, Goa, Uttarakhand and Manipur assemblies were announced on January 4. Two days later, the ministry issued a letter to the OMCs on the poll code of conduct. Paragraph XIII of the letter says they are directed that while implementing PMUY “material containing pictures of the prime minister and speech should not be used. However, the process of enrolling, processing and release of connections can be undertaken, as PMUY is an ongoing scheme”.


Based on this, distributors started supplying LPG connections in these states. However, the EC started sending notices to the dealers that they were breaching the code of conduct. In one such letter of January 21, the EC sought an explanation from a Sitapur-based distributor on why they’d given connections to five families during election time. Similarly, another agency in Chandauli got a notice for giving connections to 32 families.   The scheme was launched on May 1 at Ballia in UP. The target is to provide connections to 50 million families in three years, with government support of Rs 1,600 a connection.


“PMUY has revolutionised the concept of energy consumption but we are in a soup now. There needs to be some clarity on whether we should go ahead and give more connections,”  said Pawan Soni, general secretary, Federation of LPG Distributors of India.


As on Thursday, the government had given 166,86,876 connections under the scheme.

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