The Comptroller and Auditor General of India flagged several concerns related to the Narendra Modi government’s flagship Ujjwala scheme, mainly about the risk of diversion by beneficiaries. In a report tabled in the Parliament on Wednesday, the auditor said the scheme needs to be investigated for possible misuse by consumers.
The report found abnormally high numbers of daily refills of LPG cylinders, which it said may indicate a diversion of the benefits towards non-domestic or commercial purposes despite opting for it for domestic use.
Indian Oil and Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited reported 3.44 lakh instances, involving 2.99 lakh consumers, in which they issued two to 20 refills in a day to a single beneficiary. Of these, 2.61 lakh consumers, in 3.02 lakh instances, availed two refills in a day. As many as 1,309 consumers availed 12 refills in a single day in 1,335 instances.
The report also noted that 1.98 lakh beneficiaries had an average annual consumption of more than 12 cylinders which seems “improbable in view of their BPL [below poverty line] status”. As many as 13.96 lakh beneficiaries consumed three to 41 refills in a month.
On the abnormally high number of refills, the two state-owned oil companies told the CAG that consumption of each household is independent of any quota restriction to govern the same on any single day. “Each household’s family structure is different, eating and cooking habits varies; as a result, every household has its unique LPG consumption requirements,” the companies said. However, the audit report noted that the replies “are not tenable as given the BPL status of PMUY consumers, the pattern of high offtake of refills appears to be improbable and there is a risk of diversion”.
The audit showed that the average number of refills used by 1.93 crore consumers who had completed a year or more on March 31, 2018, was just 3.66 per year. This reduced to 3.21 refills a year for 3.18 crore consumers who had completed a year by December 31, 2018. The report concluded that encouraging the sustained usage of LPG remains a big challenge.
The Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana provides free cooking gas connections to families living below the poverty line. It is one of the most heavily advertised of the Modi government’s schemes.