Ujjwala Yojana scam unearthed in Pulwama

DM orders FIR against LPG agencies for diversion of subsidy

PULWAMA: The Pulwama district administration has found discrepancies in implementation of the PMUY-Ujjwala Yojana in the district. Preliminary scrutiny and verification for the same was going on for the past few months in the district.
District Magistrate Dr Raghav Langer on Thursday ordered the AD Food Civil Supplies Pulwama to lodge FIR against three LPG agencies.
The tip of this scam caught the eye of the administration when last year in the months of April-May-June, entitlement for 3 free cylinders for Ujjawala Yojana beneficiaries was announced by Govt of India amidst lockdown situation along with extra ration entitlement under PMGKAY.
Following this, the first LPG subsidy amount of Rs 851 was credited into accounts of Ujjwala Yojana beneficiaries. Many Ujjwala beneficiaries who had not physically received any LPG connection were surprised with this credit entry and some approached their Tehsil Supply Officers (TSOs) and bank branches to know the reason for such receipts.
On further enquiry, similar reports started pouring in from other areas, as well as from public representatives, that many of their SECC Ujjwala beneficiaries may be receiving LPG cylinder subsidy in their accounts but have not yet received any free connection, including LPG cylinder & gas stove.
As per the initial inputs that have been shared by the administration, the modus operandi in this seems to be well crafted. Ujjawala Yojana connections were online sanctioned to the entitled beneficiaries by the Oil Marketing/ Gas Companies (OMCs) based on recommendation & submission of papers by concerned LPG agencies/ dealers. The same requires a filled up gas connection form, bank passbook and Aadhar card copies which are arranged by the local agents of these agencies from the entitled families included in the SECC survey list. In most of the cases the Ujjwala beneficiary who is a female doesn’t even know that a LPG connection already stands issued in her favour by the LPG agency. Since the Aadhar number and linked bank accounts are correct, the beneficiaries start receiving credit of Rs 95-200 per refill in their account. Most of the times the beneficiary is unable to understand the reason for this receipt, as it is simply reflected as a ABPS credit entry similar to quarterly/monthly receipt under other social security/pension schemes, PM-Kisan, scholarship schemes, state marriage assistance scheme etc.
Thus the gas refills keep on getting booked against the Ujjawala connections and these domestic gas cylinders go to the black market and most commonly are diverted for commercial use in hotels/ restaurants/ shops/ dhabas/ factories/ heating purposes etc. The huge cost difference between domestic and commercial LPG cylinders is a natural lure for its mass diversion. While unsuspecting PMUY-Ujjwala beneficiaries feel happy to receive subsidy in their accounts on each LPG cylinder purchased against their LPG ID, the government exchequer loses heavily due to such diversion of domestic cylinders into black market.
Worthwhile to mention that each Pradhan Mantri Ujjawala Yojana connection comes with provision of 12 LPG refills per year linked with back ended subsidy @ Rs 1600/year. A new Ujjawala connection consists of a free cylinder and gas stove and is sanctioned in the name of females of the households enlisted in the SECC-2011 survey list. The scheme was launched in the year 2016.
During the first round of verification of sample set of PMUY connections in district Pulwama, hundreds of instances were found where the beneficiaries had not till date physically received any Ujjwala connection (LPG cylinder plus stove) despite connections being shown as active since year 2017/2018/2019 and LPG refills affected against such customer IDs. The same was corroborated by the administration through the Refill registry of the SDMS login accounts (Subscriber Dealer Management System) of concerned LPG agencies, which they were reluctant to provide in the beginning of investigation. Many beneficiaries confirmed receipt of only a free LPG cylinder without the gas stove. Also in several instances the addresses and phone numbers of the beneficiaries were found incorrect in the database of the agency/dealer, most probably to make any verification process difficult.
The District Magistrate Pulwama has lauded the efforts of Asstt Director Food Civil Supplies, Pulwama, Sheikh Enayatullah (KAS) for thorough investigation in the matter leading to unearthing of the scam and his zeal to streamline the PDS in the district.
Sources confirmed that following sections are likely to be invoked in the FIR that is to be lodged: IPC Sec 120-B (criminal conspiracy), Sec 403 (dishonest misappropriation of property), Sec 406 (criminal breach of trust), Sec 417/420/463/464 for forgery & cheating read with Sec 34 IPC (acts done in furtherance of common intention); Sec 3/7 EC Act 1955; relevant provisions of Essential Commodities (display of prices & stocks and control of supply & distribution) Order, 1977; LPG (Regulation of supply & distribution) Order, 2000; Gas Cylinders Rules, 2016; The Aadhaar (Targeted delivery of financial & other subsidies, benefits & services) Act, 2016.
Meanwhile the administration will also be writing to the concerned OMCs (Oil Marketing Companies), Office of Dy Chief Controller of Explosives Chandigarh, Petroleum & Explosives Safety Organisation Faridabad, Fire & Emergency Services Dept J&K, and Legal Metrology Dept J&K for initiating necessary action in view of gross violations, flouting of safety regulations, Weights & Measures Rules and non fulfilment of agreement conditions found during surprise inspections of various LPG godowns carried out in the district on 20th Jan, 2021.
It may be recalled that even CAG and other audit agencies in the past have continuously raised concerns vis-a-vis implementation of Ujjawala Yojana in some areas pointing towards diversion of subsidised cylinders, high consumption of some Ujjwala households being reflected by agencies which is highly unlikely, large scale commercial usage of domestic cylinders, non availability of installation records & pre-installation check-ups, lack of validation checks, etc.
—Information Department

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