In an attempt to plug the hole in the LPG subsidy system, the government has forced the three oil companies — Indian Oil, Hindustan Petroleum and Bharat Petroleum — to put up the exact details of cylinder allocation on their websites, for everyone to see.
The three companies had initially built separate portals that enabled an individual to find out how many cylinders of LPG has been issued in his name — allowing him to know whether his connection is being misused by his dealer or distributor to divert subsidized gas.
The central government gives a subsidy of around Rs 300 per cylinder to consumers of cooking gas in the country. However, dealers and distributors have been reported to book cylinders in their customer’s name without the knowledge of the customer and then sell the cylinder to others, including merchants and black-market operators.
This was reported to be causing a huge losses to the government (and huge profit to dealers) as the subsidy was being diverted to those who did not deserve it, in return for a commission to the dealer.
However, the initial LPG allocation portals created by the three companies — Indian Oil Corporation Ltd, Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd and Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd — were often found to be ‘down’ or disfunctional.
Now, the government has revamped the entire initiative. All three companies now have a uniform-looking system and the three portals now behave and function in a similar way.
Not only can an individual find out how many LPG cylinders have been issued in his name (in the current financial year,) he can also find out how much subsidy he has got.
Another feature of the portal is that anyone can find out how many cylinders have been issued to other subscribers in his area. The portals (Indian Oil, Bharat Petroleum and Hindustan Petroleum) have an easy drop down menu for searching dealers by name.
Once a dealer has been selected, the portals immediately provide a list of all the LPG customers under it and also the number of cylinders provided to each one.
By clicking on ‘No of refill’ arrow, one can order the subscribers by the number of cylinders they have consumed so far this year, allowing one to see how many cylinders are being allocated to the biggest and the smallest users.
“This initiative is expected to emerge as a powerful tool for social audit for all domestic LPG supplies,” the ministry of petroleum and natural gas, headed by Jaipal Reddy, said in a statement.
The portal is expected to help everyone access LPG distribution information, report discrepancies and register their feedback on the anomalies in supply, if any, the ministry said.
The portal also gives opportunity to consumers to rate the services of their LPG distributor.
LPG cylinders are distributed to nearly 14 crore (140 million) households in India.
The move has come in an effort to reduce corruption and leakage of subsidies in the LPG segment.
The other three major subsidy programs — public distribution system for food and kerosene, fertilizer distribution system and the national employment guarantee scheme — continue to be plagued by leakage and allegations of corruption. They are yet to have such ‘transparency portals.’
Indian government sends about Rs 3 lakh crore (Rs 30,00,00,00,00,000) every year through the above schemes as subsidies. In other words, it sends Rs 2,500 to each person in India in the form of subsidies. However, it is estimated that about 50% of the money is pocketed by corrupt government officials and their business partners before it reaches the intended recipients.