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Aadhaar lock in LPG subsidy plan

The petroleum ministry’s plan to deposit the subsidy on LPG cylinders in consumers’ bank accounts from November 1 could run out of gas as lakhs of Calcuttans haven’t received their Aadhaar numbers, mandatory for direct transfer of the benefit.

Data accessed from the office of the census directorate revealed that around 20 lakh people in Calcutta don’t have Aadhaar numbers, which means the subsidy cannot be deposited in their bank accounts, which needs to be linked with Aadhaar numbers.

While the number of LPG users would be less than the 20 lakh people still out of the Unique Identification Authority of India’s radar, the petroleum ministry’s decision has brought the slow progress of the Aadhaar project in the city into sharp focus.

While Aadhaar’s penetration is more than 50 per cent in Calcutta, less than 30 per cent of South 24-Parganas and North 24-Parganas has been covered. Home secretary Basudeb Banerjee has convened a meeting of district magistrates, census officials and vendors to discuss the subject.

The petroleum ministry’s target for Calcutta, Howrah and Cooch Behar is November 1 but there will be some leeway till January 31 so that the scheme can cover more people.

At present, consumers are entitled to nine cylinders of 14.2kg each every financial year at a subsidised rate of Rs 412.50, They have to shell out Rs 967 for each cylinder beyond this quota.

From February 1, 2014, it will be different. “We will charge everyone the non-subsidised domestic LPG price from February 1. The subsidy amount will be directly transferred to consumers’ Aadhaar-linked bank accounts,” said Indrajit Basu, executive director of IOC, West Bengal.

Now that the oil companies have set a deadline, time is running out for Calcuttans. Given the rate at which people have got their Aadhaar numbers — 24 lakh since July 2011 — reaching another 20 lakh people in 130-odd days would be tough, if not impossible.

“We have just come to know about the deadline set by the petroleum ministry. We are in the process of setting up permanent camps so that all potential beneficiaries are enrolled before the direct benefit transfer scheme is launched,” said C. Chandramouli, registrar general and census commissioner of India.

Data is uploaded for verification after enrolment, following which Aadhaar numbers are generated and sent by post.

Although Chandramouli said permanent Aadhaar camps would be set up in Calcutta, senior officers at the census directorate were clueless about it. “We haven’t received any order as of this evening,” said an officer in the Calcutta office.

Census officials said unavailability of venues for enrolment, lack of awareness and poor utilisation of equipment — a laptop, fingerprint scanner, iris scanner and a camera for each set-up — were the reasons for the slow pace of the project. “Besides, vendors have not been paid for six to seven months. That’s why they are not deploying enough people for the enrolment process,” said a state government officer, holding Delhi responsible for the roadblock.