New Delhi/Calcutta, Sept. 17: The Delhi government, facing polls in just over a year, today announced it would provide poor families with nine subsidised cooking gas cylinders a year instead of the six announced by the Centre.
The move will help not the middle class but some 3.5 lakh of Delhi’s poorest families whom the Sheila Dikshit government’s “Kerosene-free Delhi” campaign had only last month introduced to LPG, by providing them with free connections. The latest sop is expected to cost the state exchequer nearly Rs 40 crore a year.
In Calcutta, panchayat minister Subrata Mukherjee said the Bengal government was not mulling a similar measure to spend from its own pocket and raise the subsidised LPG ceiling in the state “at the moment”.
“The poor in Bengal do not use LPG cylinders for cooking; they use firewood ovens. So there is no question of providing subsidised LGP cylinders to the poor families,” Mukherjee said.
“My department prepares the list of BPL (below poverty line) families in Bengal, so I know the ground realities very well. I don’t want to comment on a decision taken by another state.”
Dikshit, whose Congress government is headed for Assembly elections in December 2013, said: “We are committed to safeguarding the interests of the aam aadmi.”
The additional three cylinders are on offer only for families that have BPL or AAY (Antyodaya Anna Yojana) cards or Gender Resource Centre cards, which indicate they receive social welfare.
The Delhi government will pay the difference between the market price and the subsidised price, which is around Rs 350 per cylinder.
Ironically, the beneficiaries will come from a section that, on the whole, did not use cooking gas till a month ago.
However, around that time, the Union petroleum ministry pointed out that Delhi far exceeded its quota of LPG cylinders and said it would stop supplying subsidised kerosene to the state.
To tackle the situation, the Dikshit government launched the “Kerosene-free Delhi” scheme in August. Officially, it claimed the scheme was being started because of widespread pilferage of subsidised kerosene.
The BPL and AAY families were eligible to receive 12.5 litres of kerosene every month at Rs 14.83 a litre against the market price of Rs 27-30. Under the new scheme, the government is providing each family with a free LPG connection, booked in the name of its eldest female member.
“Reducing the number of subsidised cylinders was a big blow to the scheme. Since these beneficiaries cannot afford LPG at the market price, the government had to step in,” a senior Delhi government official said.
In April, too, Dikshit had played the populist card after the oil companies raised petrol prices by Rs 7.54 a litre. Her government waived 20 per cent of the tax, bringing the price down by Rs 1.26 a litre.
The government’s budget outlay for the current financial year is Rs 33,436 crore. Keeping the polls in mind, it proposes to spend Rs 9,796 crore on the social service sector.