Bangalore: Despite an interim order by the Supreme Court disallowing the government from making the Aadhaar number mandatory for accessing State subsidies and benefits, Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) Ltd. continues to inform consumers that they will not get their LPG subsidy if they do not seed their Aadhaar-linked bank accounts to the IOC database.
SMSes and publicity material released by IOC in the past week indicate that the company is going ahead with the Union government’s deadlines for the Direct Benefit Transfer scheme for LPG. While the deadline for Udupi and Dharwad districts has been extended till January-end, the “grace period” for Bangalore Urban will expire on March 1.
Over the past week, LPG consumers have been receiving frequent SMSes requesting them to submit their Aadhaar number to their LPG distributor and their bank, with “no further delay”. Though the SMS does not state whether or not this is mandatory, frequent messages have been instilling a sense of urgency and panic among consumers. Further, several consumers told The Hindu that, upon enquiry, distributors had been telling them that they would have to forego their subsidy amount (for nine cylinders a year) if they failed to register their details with the IOC database. Once the DBT scheme is enforced, the IOC will migrate customers entirely to the new system — that is, consumers will have to pay the market price, and the subsidy amount will be credited to their bank accounts.
‘No other method’
Senior IOC officials said that while the oil manufacturing company was desisting from making statements on whether or not this was mandatory, in effect those whose details would not be seeded to the database would not be able to avail of the benefit. “Basically, once the DBT scheme starts there is no other method to receive or avail of the subsidy. As of now, there is no alternative method,” said R.K. Arora, executive director, Karnataka State office. He pointed out that in rural areas several other subsidies were already linked to Aadhaar, and the DBT scheme was at 100 per cent in Tumkur and Mysore districts.
As of January 1, an IOC official said, only 30 per cent of LPG consumers in the Bangalore Circle had seeded their accounts to the IOC database, while in Udupi and Dharwad it was roughly around 50 per cent.
“We are not claiming it’s mandatory, and currently all companies have submitted an affidavit seeking the order be reconsidered. Meanwhile, we have just asked people to submit the details to the distributor as soon as they can,” the official said. He added that IOC was likely to keep extending the deadline to “be on the safe side”.
Meanwhile, there is confusion among consumers on the issue. Krishnan Pillai, a resident of R.T. Nagar here, said Aadhaar numbers were being delayed, and there was huge anxiety among people. “Last week, I saw an advertisement that implied that I will lose subsidy if I don’t submit my number. Is the Supreme Court verdict not applicable?” he said. Sumitra Gupta, a charted accountant from Majestic, said distributors were telling them to “ignore news report on the Supreme Court verdict”.
“This is arm twisting,” she said.
Sunil Abraham of the Centre for Internet and Society, a Bangalore-based NGO that has been part of the anti-Aadhaar campaign, said IOC was “pushing the boundary”. “From the very beginning, people have been objecting to the so-called voluntary nature of the scheme. It’s unfortunate that the will of the Supreme Court in its interim order on such as a critical component of our citizenship is also being ignored,” he said.