CAG lifts the lid on cylinder scam under Ujjwala scheme

About 2.61 lakh BPL consumers bought two subsidised LPG refills each in a single day in about three lakh instances from two state-owned oil companies. Reuters File Photo

In a shocking diversion of cooking gas cylinders meant for BPL families under the flagship Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY), data from a CAG audit report showed that about 2.61 lakh BPL consumers bought two subsidised LPG refills each in a single day in about three lakh instances from two state-owned oil companies.

In some cases, over 1,300 consumers purchased 12 cylinders each in a day between May 2016, when the scheme was launched, and December 2018. Nearly 7,000 bought four cylinders a day; 4,000 BPL beneficiaries were issued five refills a day.

Two public sector oil companies — IOCL and HPCL — which lacked effective mechanism to restrict booking or delivery of more than one refill a day, together issued 2 to 20 refills to 2.98 lakh beneficiaries during 2016-2018.

The national auditor said in a report tabled in Parliament on Wednesday that this high consumption was not possible even in the case of general connections, and urged the government to probe the matter to prevent the misuse of the scheme and diversion towards commercial use.

There is a significant difference between the price of domestic and commercial LPG refills on account of subsidy, customs and excise duties and other tax levies. A 14.2-kg LPG cylinder to a PMUY beneficiary roughly costs Rs 500 as against Rs 800-Rs 900 for others.

Though the IOCL and HPCL replied, citing each household’s family structure, eating and cooking habits, the CAG said their replies were not tenable.

“Given the BPL status of PMUY consumers, the pattern of high offtake of refills appears to be improbable and there is risk of diversion,” the CAG said.

It also said that though PMUY has been able to give a significant push to increase LPG coverage, the average refill consumption is showing a downward trend, which indicates the oil marketing companies have to go a long way in ensuring sustainable usage of LPG.

An analysis of 3.18 crore PMUY consumers, who had completed one year or more as on December 31, 2018, showed that 0.56 crore or 17.61% beneficiaries never came back for second refill and 1.05 crore or about 33% beneficiaries consumed one to three refills only in more than two and a half years.

Thus, the CAG said, "the success of such a huge social scheme cannot be measured in terms of mere distribution of connections without ensuring the transition to clean fuel through sustained usage of LPG."

The CAG also flagged the issue of distribution of 5-kg LPG cylinders to PMUY beneficiaries, which remained inadequate.

On review of Aadhaar cards attached with 18,558 KYC records of PMUY beneficiaries at 164 LPG distributors, the audit observed that 225 LPG connections were issued to minors. The law stipulates that the connections can only be provided to a consumer who is at least 18 years of age.

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