Strongly opposing the Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) scheme for LPG, the second phase of which is to be rolled out from January 1, 2014, Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa on Monday urged Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to have a complete rethink on it.
The Chief Minister, in her letter to the Prime Minister, said, “In a federal structure like ours where the States are in close and direct contact with the people, the choice of designing and implementing welfare schemes is best left to the States.” She said if the intention of the Centre was to ensure efficient delivery, then it should consult the States before launching any such ambitious scheme.
“In the circumstances, I strongly urge you to have a complete rethink on the proposed DBT for LPG and pending such a rethink, put on hold the proposed Phase II roll-out,” Jayalalithaa said.
Jayalalithaa said the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas intends to link the DBT for LPG scheme with the Aadhaar number of the LPG customers. ‘’This is a proposal fraught with a number of practical difficulties.”
Stating that the preparedness for implementing DBT for LPG was so poor and on account of the poor performance of Central agencies in issuing Adhaar numbers and of banks in delaying the roll out of doorstep service in villages through banking correspondents, Jayalalithaa said there was legal uncertainty on Adhaar number scheme due to the Supreme Court’s recent orders.
Jayalalithaa said following objections, the Union Planning Commission had excluded the three districts in Tamil Nadu — Ariyalur, Pudukkottai and Tiruchy — from Phase I of the roll-out of the DBT mechanism.
“In this situation, I was rudely shocked to receive a letter from the Union Minister for Petroleum and Natural Gas dated September 7, 2013 informing that Phase II of the DBT for LPG (DBTL) scheme is proposed to be implemented in 235 districts in the country, including 25 districts in Tamil Nadu, with effect from January 1, 2014,” she said.
Registering her strong opposition to it, Jayalalithaa said the proposed scheme would amount to replacing a subsidy on the supply of an essential commodity with a cash transfer which the Tamil Nadu Government strongly opposes.
“LPG is an essential commodity that has to be made available to the users in a timely and need-based manner and, in our view, replacing the subsidy with a direct cash transfer is not appropriate,” she said.
Jayalalithaa further said linking DBT for LPG to the Aadhaar number without preparing the system adequately would only lead to confusion and public inconvenience. Further, the DBT for LPG as designed by the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas envisages that after a grace period of three months, no person who was not an Aadhaar enrollee could receive the LPG subsidy. In this connection, the Chief Minister recalled that already, the SC had held that Aadhar enrollment had to be voluntary and the government could not make it mandatory for rendering any services.