With the Model Code of Conduct being in force ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, key schemes of the petroleum ministry — Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY) and fuel pump dealership licensing — are facing implementation hurdles.
While there are little chances of new enrollment under the flagship PMUY till the election process is over, the oil marketing companies have written to the ministry seeking Election Commission’s approval to continue with distribution of pump licences.
These developments come close on the heels of the government deferring the last date for bidding for the 14 oil and gas exploration blocks offered in the second round of Open Acreage Licensing Policy (OALP) by a month to April 10 in the wake of the elections. Officials said even if the bids were to be evaluated, the Code would stand in the way of declaring the winners.
The last date of submission of bid for OALP II will now be April 10, 2019, which is the deadline for OALP-III bids also. OALP-II round was delayed by six months and it was launched barely a month before the third round.
Under Ujjwala, the government has already distributed around 7.15 crore LPG connections to poor households. However, the process, which has so far run at a fast clip, is expected to slow down till the elections are over as only 20 lakh families who have already been identified and enrolled can be given the subsidised LPG connections. “No new enrollments will be done,” said a source.
Launched in May 2016, the PMUY was initially aimed at providing clean cooking fuel to 5 crore women from households classified as BPL under the Socio Economic Caste Census 2011 over a period of three years. A sum of Rs 8,000 crore was allocated for the scheme to start with. However, given the success of the scheme, an additional Rs 4,800 crore was allocated and the target was increased to 8 crore beneficiaries. The revised target is expected to be achieved by 2020.
The ministry of petroleum and natural gas last year also launched a scheme to offer fuel retail outlet dealerships through the three oil marketing companies (OMCs) — Indian Oil, BPCL and HPCL. The three companies invited bids for 78,000 locations for which they got applications for more than 76,000 sites. Till now, the OMCs have already issued letters of intent to 4,800 bidders. While 20,000 locations have got single bids, 11,800 have been selected through draws. However, OMCs have stopped issuing LoIs or the draw process seeking clarification. “While it is a business decision and the process started before the Code came into force, there has to be a clarity,” said another source.