IAS officer caught in Centre, State crossfire over kerosene

Harsh Gupta transferred for refusing to divert PDS fuel to boatmen

IAS officer caught in Centre, State crossfire over kerosene

 A tug-of-war between the State government and the Centre over supplying subsidised kerosene to traditional boatmen in the coastal areas is understood to have led to the unceremonious transfer of senior IAS officer Harsh Gupta from the post of Commissioner, Food and Civil Supplies.

The State government began implementing its budgetary announcement of supplying 300 litres kerosene to each of the boatmen from June this year. It was utilising kerosene meant to be distributed under Public Distribution System (PDS) for this purpose. The Centre took serious exception to it as the fuel is highly subsidised. Every litre of kerosene carries subsidy of about Rs 50, official sources said.

The Centre supplies 42,000 kilo litre (KL) of kerosene every month to the State under the PDS. The State Food and Civil Supplies department recently stopped kerosene supply to Above Poverty Line (APL), non-LPG ration card holders, saving about 4,500 KL every month.

Gupta stopped the supply of kerosene to non-LPG card holders a few months ago, on the grounds that there was large-scale misuse of the fuel.

The State government had announced the supply of 300 litres of kerosene per month per boatman in its budget for 2013-14. It, however, failed to implement the scheme in the last financial year due to non-availability of kerosene.

With the Congress facing a defeat in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the ruling party MLAs, especially those representing the coastal region, had begun mounting pressure on the government to implement the scheme. The government then decided to divert PDS kerosene saved by the department for implementing the delayed scheme. About 1,500 KL of kerosene per month is required to implement the scheme, sources said.

The Union Petroleum Ministry, on the other hand, is learnt to have directed Gupta not to divert PDS kerosene for any other purpose. It also directed him to immediately surrender the entire quantum of kerosene left unutilised under the State quota back to it. The State government, in turn, is understood to have directed the officer to release the PDS kerosene for the scheme meant for the boatmen.

But Gupta, who was caught between the proverbial devil and the deep sea, is learnt to have recently informed the State government in writing that he cannot violate rules under the PDS by diverting the kerosene. Food and Civil Supplies Minister Dinesh Gundu Rao was upset with the officer for not obeying the government’s direction, sources said.

It is learnt that the Centre recently cut down the State’s quota of kerosene, forcing the State government to stop implementing the kerosene scheme. An irate State government transferred Gupta without posting on Tuesday.

He had been handpicked by Chief Minister Siddaramaiah to implement his government’s flagship Anna Bhagya scheme and prevent misuse of subsidy schemes under PDS.
He was instrumental in ushering in a number of reforms in the department, including the system to link ratio cards with electoral photo identity cards (EPICs).

When contacted, Gupta refused to comment. Dinesh Gundu Rao was not available for comment.

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