Domestic LPG users in Calcutta and Howrah can heave a sigh of relief as the decision to switch to the Aadhaar-linked direct benefit transfer from February 1 has been put on hold.
The scheme came into effect in three districts of Bengal — Cooch Behar, Calcutta and Howrah — on November 1. But the petroleum ministry gave leeway till January so LPG customers had three months to get their Aadhaar cards.
It was decided that direct benefit transfer (DBT) for people with Aadhaar cards and subsidised cylinders for those without the card will continue till January 31.
“The DBT scheme for LPG customers will be rolled out in Cooch Behar as a pilot project on February 1…. The earlier decision of rolling it out in Calcutta and Howrah on the same day has been put on hold,” said a source in the office of the Registrar General of India.
An official in the Calcutta Municipal Corporation said the civic body has received a communication from the state government that the plan to launch the DBT scheme in Calcutta and Howrah is on hold.
The decision is bound to please chief minister Mamata Banerjee, who had objected to the DBT launch before everyone in the targeted population gets an Aadhaar card and written to the Prime Minister requesting a rethink.
Following the decision, the authorities have decided not to hold camps for biometric registration for Aadhaar enrolment at the offices of LPG distributors.
The Supreme Court has ruled that the Aadhaar card cannot be made mandatory for subsidy on domestic LPG.
Sources said the decision to put on hold the roll-out in Calcutta and Howrah was taken on Wednesday at a meeting in Delhi.
“The decision was prompted by less than satisfactory coverage of Aadhaar in the two districts. A notification will be issued on Monday or Tuesday and sent to the oil companies and the central public sector units, which are steering the project of issuing Aadhaar cards to people,” said a source in the registrar-general’s office.
Under the DBT scheme, a dream project of the UPA II government, an individual can enjoy government benefits such as subsidy only if he/she has a 12-digit Aadhaar number, which is a unique proof of identity and address. The benefits — subsidy in case of LPG cylinders — will be transferred to the bank account of the beneficiary only if it is linked to his/her Aadhaar number.
Among the eligible individuals in Calcutta — the Aadhaar card is issued to those above the age of 5 years — only 69 per cent have been included in the National Population Register (NPR), the first step of getting the Aadhaar card.
In Cooch Behar and Howrah, the coverage is 84 per cent and 78 per cent, respectively. After a person’s name is included in the NPR, he/she has to undergo biometric registration before the Aadhaar card is issued.
As it takes two-three months between biometric registration and receipt of the Aadhaar card, the entire targetted population in the three districts cannot be covered by February 1. “So, a pilot project will be rolled out in Cooch Behar. Based on the experience, the roll-out dates for the other districts will be decided,” said a source.
The same model of pilot in one district will be followed in four other states — Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Bihar and UP — where the registrar-general of India is in charge of Aadhaar coverage, along with Bengal
In all other states, the Unique Identification Authority of India is implementing the project.
The Trinamul Congress will move a government resolution in the Assembly on Monday demanding that subsidy on domestic LPG not be linked with the Aadhaar number.
“We have been forced to move this resolution as the Centre has remained adamant in linking subsidy on domestic LPG with Aadhaar cards,” said government chief whip Sobhandeb Chattopadhyay.