Ministers in the state government are groaning that the AP exchequer will have to incur an additional expense of Rs 1,500 crore to subsidise nine LPG cylinders per year instead of the cap of six set by the Union government last week. But since the orders are from Sonia, the government will have to toe the line willy-nilly, they said.
Buffeted by pressure from Mamata Banerjee and the entire opposition, the Congress party on Wednesday issued a diktat to all states ruled by it to bankroll the subsidy component of an additional three LPG cylinders. Delhi and Haryana have already complied with the order couched as proosal.
Though the AP state government has not yet announced its compliance, it is thought to be inevitable. “We have to bear the burden. The instructions are from our president,” transport minister Botcha Satyanarayana and finance minister Anam Ramnarayana Reddy said on Thursday. There are 1.6 crore gas connections in the state with each entitled to a steep subsidy on an unlimited number of LPG cylinders.
A cylinder of LPG cost between Rs 790 in the open market, and subsidised cylinders were a steal at Rs 402. The king’s share of the subsidy was borne by the central government. The state government pitched in with Rs 25, which cost it Rs 240 crore per annum on the whole.
The central government brought the party to an end last week by placing a cap of six subsidised cylinders per year per connection. Henceforth, additional cylinders would have to be bought at the market price. But the central government seems to be unable to carry through this policy of tough love, and the Congress asked state governments ruled by it to bail out the UPA regime by raising the sussidy cylinders to nine.
This is not an executive order from the Union government but ‘friendly advice’ from 7 Janpath. So the state government’s civil supplies staff are crunching data on the number of households having single LPG connections and the number having two or more. The idea is to limit the largesse to single connections and cut the doubles out.
“The civil supplies department is in the exercise of estimating the burden. The chief minister will make an announcement on the matter soon,” said one minister, who did not want to be named.