Sunday 23 October 2016

Petroleum Minister Faces Opposition Ire in RS

New Delhi

Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan today faced ire of opposition members in Rajya Sabha as they accused him of not giving specific replies even as Chairman Hamid Ansari agreed that ministers need to give direct replies to pointed queries.

Answering questions on Aadhaar-based direct subsidy transfer to domestic cooking gas LPG consumers, Pradhan spoke in general terms and made a political statement, drawing angry reactions from opposition benches.

He said the direct benefit transfer on LPG (DBTL) scheme was a "good scheme" but was launched by the previous UPA government with objective of getting political mileage before the general elections.

The minister was asked reasons for discontinuing DBTL. Members wanted to know when the government proposed to relaunch it as well as the number of poor enrolled for Aadhaar and bank accounts seeded.

Congress members including Anand Sharma objected to Pradhan not giving a direct reply.

The scheme was launched in June 2013 and general elections were held almost a year later.

Satyavrat Chaturvedi (Cong) said just as the Chair insists on members to ask specific questions, the ministers too should give specific replies to specific points raised.

To this, Ansari said, "Agreed."

Pradhan said the DBTL could have proved to be a game changer as was billed before its launch, but the scheme faltered because of poor preparedness.

Under DBTL, consumers are paid cash subsidy to help them buy LPG cylinders at market price.

 The scheme was launched in 291 districts of the country in six phases but it was put on hold in March this year. This followed complaints of not all consumer having unique identification number (Aadhaar) or a bank account to get the subsidy.

Besides, there were court cases and Supreme Court had on two occasions made observations on the scheme, Pradhan said, adding the scheme was ambitious and could have helped stop corruption and improve customer service.

"It was a good scheme but not implemented properly," he said.

"The scheme of Direct Benefit Transfer for LPG (DBTL), launched in 291 districts, has been kept in abeyance till further orders as per Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs (CCPA) decision dated February 28, 2014, and the system of providing subsidised cylinders to all domestic LPG consumers on payment of the applicable subsidised price for each such cylinder has been re-introduced in all the above DBTL districts, as per the consumer's entitlement of subsidised cylinders," Pradhan said.

Consumers are entitled to 12 subsidised cylinders a year.


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