Oil minister Dharmendra Pradhan on Friday distributed around 3,000 free LPG stoves under the free cooking gas scheme titled the "Ujjwala Yojana’ here on Friday and expressed hope that the Centre would be able to cover the entire megapolis in over two years.
Launching the scheme with distributing free cooking gas connection with a stove, lighter and a cylinder trolley, costing a little over Rs 6,000 per connection, he said though the city has only 18 lakh households, there are 22 lakh LPG connections and 6 lakh PNG connections, indicating that many many households still have multiple connections.
Out of the total cost, 50 per cent will be directly subsidised by the government and the rest of the cost will be borne by the oil marketing companies by way of interest free loans to consumers.
Under the first phase, close to 5,000 BPL households in north Mumbai will be covered before mid-September, Pradhan said, adding the remaining households will be covered over the next two-three years.
The minister, however, parried a direct answer when asked whether the ministry is planning to get the multiple connections cancelled saying his public call to surrender such connections would not fall on deaf ears.
When sought his views on the CAG observation that the government has blown up the subsidy savings by way direct cash benefit scheme, Pradhan said his ministry stands by its numbers but did not offer any explanation.
He said the Opposition Congress is interested only in the subsidy numbers while the report also spoke about the national loot that was happening under its watch. He again did not elaborate.
Pradhan claimed that since the voluntary surrender of LPG subsidies, his ministry could cancel as many as 3.5 crore fake connections leading to a saving of Rs 21,000 crore.
It can be recalled that on August 12, the national auditor CAG had picked holes in government claims saying savings from LPG subsidies paid directly to consumers was only about 15 per cent or Rs 1,764 crore, of what government has been claiming and that bulk of the savings was due to sharp fall in global crude prices.
"The actual subsidy payout during the period from April 2015 to December 2015 was Rs 12,084.24 crore as against Rs 35,400.46 crore during April 2014 to December 2014," the CAG said, adding of the Rs 23,316.12 crore savings in subsidy.
CAG said Rs 21,552.8 crore was on account of fall in crude oil price.