Ujjwala Yojana Scheme - FIR ordered against three gas agencies in Pulwama

PULWAMA — In a major development, huge discrepancies have been found by the administration in implementation of PMUY-Ujjwala Yojana in Pulwama.

The preliminary scrutiny & verification for the same, which was going on for last few months in the district, concluded by District Magistrate, Dr Raghav Langer today ordering AD Food Civil Supplies Pulwama to lodge FIR against erring three LPG agencies.

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The tip of this scam caught eye of the administration when last year in the month of April-May-June, 2020 entitlement for three free cylinders for Ujjawala Yojana beneficiaries was announced by Government of India amidst lockdown situation along with extra ration entitlement under PMGKAY.

Following this, the first LPG subsidy amount of Rs. 851/- got credited into accounts of Ujjwala Yojana beneficiaries. Many of the naive Ujjwala beneficiaries who had not physically received any connection; got surprised with this credit entry and some approached their Tehsil Supply Officers (TSO’s) & bank branches to know the reason for such receipts.

On further enquiry, similar reports started pouring in from other areas as well as from public representatives that many of their SECC Ujjwala beneficiaries may be receiving LPG cylinder subsidy in their accounts but have not yet received any free connection, including LPG cylinder & gas stove.

As per the initial inputs that have been shared by administration; the modus operandi in this seems to be very well crafted. Ujjawala Yojana connections get sanctioned online to the entitled beneficiaries by the Oil Marketing/Gas Companies (OMC’s) based on recommendation & submission of papers by concerned LPG agencies/dealers. The same requires a filled-up gas connection form, Bank Passbook and Aadhar card copies which are arranged by the local agents of these agencies from the entitled families included in the SECC survey list.

In most of the cases, the Ujjwala beneficiary, who is a female, doesn’t even know that a LPG connection already stands issued in her favour by the LPG agency. Since the Aadhar number & linked Bank accounts are correct; the beneficiaries start receiving credit of Rs. 95-200 per refill in their account.

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Most of the times, the beneficiary is unable to understand the reason for this receipt, as it is simply reflected as a ABPS credit entry similar to quarterly/monthly receipt under other social security/pension schemes, PM-Kisan, scholarship schemes, State Marriage Assistance Scheme etc.

Thus, the gas refills keep on getting booked against the Ujjawala connections and these domestic gas cylinders go to the black market and most commonly are diverted for commercial use in hotels/restaurants/shops/dhabas/factories/heating purposes etc.

The huge cost difference between domestic & commercial LPG cylinders is a natural lure for its mass diversion. While unsuspecting PMUY-Ujjwala beneficiaries feel happy to receive subsidy in their accounts on each LPG cylinder purchased against their LPG ID, the government exchequer loses heavily due to such diversion of domestic cylinders into black market.

It is worthwhile to mention that each Pradhan Mantri Ujjawala Yojana connection comes with provision of 12 LPG refills per year linked with back-ended subsidy @ Rs. 1600/year. A new Ujjawala connection consists of a free cylinder and gas stove and is sanctioned in the name of females of the households enlisted in the SECC-2011 survey list. The scheme was launched in the year 2016.

During the first round of verification of sample set of PMUY connections in district Pulwama; hundreds of instances were found where the beneficiaries of the district had not till date physically received any Ujjwala connection (LPG cylinder plus stove) despite connections being shown as active since year 2017/2018/2019 and LPG refills affected against such customer ID’s.

The same was corroborated by the administration through the Refill registry of the SDMS login accounts (Subscriber Dealer Management System) of concerned LPG agencies, which they were reluctant to provide in the beginning of investigation.

Many beneficiaries confirmed receipt of only a free LPG cylinder without the gas stove. Also, in several instances, the addresses and phone numbers of the beneficiaries were found incorrect in the database of the agency/dealer, most probably to make any verification process difficult.

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The District Magistrate Pulwama has lauded the efforts of Assistant Director, Food Civil Supplies Pulwama, Mr Sheikh Enayatullah (KAS) for thorough investigation in the matter, leading to unearthing of the scam and his zeal to streamline the PDS in the district.

Sources confirmed that following Sections are likely to be invoked in the FIR that is to be lodged viz; IPC Section 120-B (Criminal Conspiracy), Section 403 (Dishonest Misappropriation of Property), Section 406 (Criminal Breach of Trust), Section 417/420/463/464 for Forgery & Cheating read with Section 34 IPC i.e, acts done in furtherance of common intention; Section 3/7 EC Act 1955; relevant provisions of Essential Commodities (Display of Prices & Stocks and Control of Supply & Distribution) Order, 1977; LPG (Regulation of Supply & Distribution) Order, 2000; Gas Cylinders Rules, 2016; The Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial & Other Subsidies, Benefits & Services) Act, 2016.

Meanwhile, the administration will also be writing to the concerned OMC’s (Oil Marketing Companies), Office of Dy. Chief Controller of Explosives Chandigarh, Petroleum & Explosives Safety Organisation Faridabad, Fire & Emergency Services Department J&K, Legal Metrology Department J&K; for initiating necessary action in view of gross violations, flouting of safety regulations, Weights & Measures Rules and non-fulfilment of agreement conditions; found during surprise inspections of various LPG godowns carried out in the district on 20th of January, 2021.

It may be recalled that even CAG and other audit agencies in the past have continuously raised concerns vis-à-vis implementation of Ujjawala Yojana in some areas, pointing towards diversion of subsidized cylinders, high consumption of some Ujjwala households being reflected by agencies which is highly unlikely, large-scale commercial usage of domestic cylinders, non-availability of installation records & pre-installation check-ups, lack of validation checks etc.

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