MMABY thus gets pitted against the Union government's Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY). While Karnataka had earlier sought the Centre’s approval for the scheme, the Union government had advised it to run it as a complementary of PMUY and implement it through oil-marketing companies (OMCs) only.
An election year, in India, is a year of freebies. Parties promise all manner of sops for all sorts of “votebanks”, indulging in reckless populism. What, however, is far more concerning is parties in power doing the same. Karnataka goes to the hustings in April-May, and its incumbent Congress government has announced a host of freebies in the last Budget before the polls. Chief minister Siddaramaiah, who also holds the finance portfolio, has allocated Rs 1,350 crore for the Mukhya Mantri Anila Bhagya Yojane (MMABY), which will give free gas connections with twin burner stoves and two refills to 3 million beneficiaries in the state. MMABY thus gets pitted against the Union government’s Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY).
While Karnataka had earlier sought the Centre’s approval for the scheme, the Union government had advised it to run it as a complementary of PMUY and implement it through oil-marketing companies (OMCs) only.
Karnataka had made it clear that the scheme will be implemented through LPG distributors, since this will transparently give data about actual consumption under the scheme. The Siddaramaiah government’s intent behind the scheme—to give the state’s poor an alternative to harmful firewood-burning—is admirable. But the fact is that MMABY will lead to chaos, and ultimately leakages, if there is duplication of connections, thanks to it running in parallel with PMUY. OMC-led disbursal of connections has the advantage of de-duplication since that will mean Aadhaar-linking. The state scheme, on the other hand, is levered on BPL cards, though the state government itself has voiced problems with BPL identification in Karnataka. Moreover, such a culture of freebies creates the hazard of leakages with collusion of the beneficiary—in which case, Aadhaar linking will also be of little avail. This something that the state should avoid in the interest of the taxpayer.