Kerala Left opposition walks out over LPG issue

Thiruvananthapuram, Jan 6 : The Left opposition Monday walked out of the Kerala assembly on the first day of the session, dissatisfied with the government's reply on steps taken to give more time to people to link their Aadhaar number to a bank account.

Such a linking of Aadhaar number and bank account is necessary for availing the subsidy on Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) cylinders, used for cooking.

Moving a leave for an adjournment motion, Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) legislator Thomas Issac blamed the state government for remaining a mute spectator to the woes of the common people in acquiring fuel to cook.

"You say that nine cylinders are available to consumers with subsidy, but in reality, these days it takes 65 days to get a refill of the cooking gas cylinder. So, where is the question of a consumer getting nine cylinders in a year? The need of the hour is to see that the rule of linking Aadhaar number to bank accounts for cylinders should not be enforced," Issac said.

Replying to the issues raised by Issac, state Food and Civil Supplies Minister Anoop Jacob said that following numerous requests from the state government, the centre has agreed to give time until the end of next month for all consumers to get their Aadhaar numbers linked to their bank account, to avail of the subsidy.

"We found that 81 percent of the 77.21 lakh consumers of LPG in the state use less than six cylinders a year, while 12 percent use eight cylinders. A mere 0.01 percent use more than nine cylinders. So, the question of people facing hardships because of the restriction of the subsidy to nine cylinders is not going to be an issue here," Jacob said.

Chief Minister Oommen Chandy told the house that Kerala was the only state in the country to get an extension in linking the Aadhaar number to the bank account.

"I assure you that even though we had asked for six months' time, they have given us two more months. We will again take up the issue, and all those who are enjoying the subsidy will continue to enjoy it. We have already told the prime minister and the petroleum minister, who were here in the state the other day, that all should get 12 cylinders in a year, with subsidy," Chandy said.

The house was also informed that of the 90 percent who have enrolled for the Aadhaar card, only 57 percent have linked it to their bank account.

Unhappy with the reply, Leader of Opposition V.S. Achuthanandan blamed the state and central governments for the common man's woes and asked the state to take a people friendly approach.

"Since you have done nothing, we are walking out of the house," Achuthanandan said.

Meanwhile, CPI-M state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan told reporters that starting from Jan 15, Left activists would stage protests in 10 centres in each of the 140 assembly constituencies in the state, demanding reversal of the hike in LPG prices and also withdrawal of the decision to link Aadhaar number with a bank account.

"We expect all the people to come along with us to protest the government's new rules," Vijayan said.

The union ministry of petroleum and natural gas, in a statement released Dec 30, said that the direct benefit transfer for LPG would come into effect once the grace period for linking the Aadhaar number to the bank account ends.

The scheme is being rolled out in phases across the country. Under the scheme, LPG subsidy at prevailing rates, of about Rs.550 per cylinder, would be transferred directly to the bank account of the consumer.

--IANS (Posted on 06-01-2014)

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