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31 Jan 2017

LPG help for schools

Basant Kumar Mohanty, TT, New Delhi, Jan. 30: A clarification issued by the Union government is set to iron out hurdles in the delivery of subsidised LPG cylinders to schools for the midday meal scheme.
The ministry of petroleum and natural gas has asked public sector oil companies not to insist on schools submitting an Aadhaar number for delivery of subsidised cylinders.
The human resource development ministry had issued an order last week to all state governments clarifying that schools are treated under the Non-Domestic Exempt Category and are entitled to subsidised cylinders on a par with domestic consumers.
The order issued by G. Vijaya Bhaskar, director in the HRD ministry, also said the oil companies had been asked to transfer subsidy into the schools' bank accounts.
Out of the total enrolment of 13.16 crore children, 10.03 crore children had the midday meal in 11.50 lakh schools during 2015-16. Assam and Bengal recorded the highest coverage, with 96 per cent of the enrolled children having the meals.
At present, 41 per cent schools in the country have LPG connections. But the oil companies' insistence on linking the Aadhaar number with consumer identity number and the consumer's bank account number for subsidy disbursal had hit the schools.
Since schools do not have Aadhaar numbers, several states had demanded exemption from Aadhaar linkage for flow of the subsidy, HRD ministry sources said. The ministry took up the matter with the petroleum ministry.
A few other states, particularly Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh, have been complaining that their schools were not getting the 12 subsidised cylinders a year that they were entitled to because the LPG dealers were not treating the NDEC category to be the same as domestic consumers.
"The HRD ministry had earlier said the schools should get the same number of subsidised cylinders as domestic consumers. But some states had complained that the LPG dealers were denying, saying schools are not domestic consumers. This order clarifies that confusion," an official said.
Before 2012, the schools were entitled to as many subsidised cylinders as required, with the petroleum ministry picking up the tab. But in September 2012, the government capped the number of subsidised cylinders to the same as that for domestic consumers.
For additional cylinders, the extra amount had to be shared between the HRD ministry and the state government in 75:25 ratio. After the NDA government came to power, it said the states would bear the full burden.
That provision continues, said food activist Deepa Sinha. "The HRD ministry has worded the order in a manner to seem as if schools are going get subsidy for cylinders for the first time. There is no new subsidy. The states will continue to bear the burden of extra cylinders as before," Sinha said.

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