The Bengal government has written to the petroleum and natural gas ministry not to start from February 1 the direct transfer of LPG subsidies to consumers in the state.
The letter is proof that a sizeable population is yet to get their Aadhaar number, a must-have to avail themselves of the direct benefit transfer (DBT) scheme for cooking gas cylinders.
“The letter has spelt it out that the plan to directly transfer the subsidy on LPG to the beneficiary’s Aadhaar-linked bank account from February 1 is not possible,” a source in the state secretariat said.
He said the government has requested the petroleum ministry to defer the DBT scheme in Bengal.
A senior official in the petroleum ministry acknowledged receiving the letter but said: “We are yet to take a decision on the request.”
The state has apparently been substantially lagging behind in the biometric enrolment of the beneficiaries, which requires scanning of the iris and all 10 fingers and photographs. Moreover, the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) has not been able to generate the Aadhaar numbers fast.
Records available with the census directorate reveal that only 55.46 per cent of the population in Calcutta had received the Aadhaar number till September 11 while the overall percentage for Bengal was 23.88. (see chart)
During a review meeting at Writers’ on Wednesday, the government set a February 28 deadline to complete the project, a tough ask given the tardy progress so far.
“If the scheme is rolled out without giving Aadhaar numbers to all the beneficiaries, there could be a law and order problem. Partial coverage before the Lok Sabha elections is a big risk.... People without Aadhaar numbers will be upset,” an official said.
With just five-and-a-half months in its hand to cover all the beneficiaries, the census directorate — the agency entrusted with the project — has asked its private partners to speed up the biometric enrolment process.
Payment issues and the festival period, during which at least 15 working days will be lost, could become major constraints in fast-tracking the process. “We have told the directorate to clear our dues…. Unless we are paid, we cannot deploy our entire force into the field,” said a representative of a private partner.
The delivery system of Aadhaar cards has also been rigged with problems. “Officials of India Post have been asked to look into the matter,” a home department official said.
Metro found a post office in Kidderpore where at least 27,000 Aadhaar cards have been lying undelivered for months allegedly because of staff shortage. The post office covers three Assembly constituencies: Bhowanipore, Port and Garden Reach.
“The biometric process was over a long ago in the area. But the people have yet to get their Aadhaar cards,” an official said.