Raman Singh government diverted welfare funds to Ujjwala
Nidhi Sharma, ET Bureau|| March 06, 2019
Chhattisgarh government’s records reveal that the Raman Singh-led BJP government had made a budget provision of Rs 55 crore for the Ujjwala scheme.
New Delhi: The newly-elected Congress government in Chhattisgarh has found that funds from several social welfare schemes, including District Mineral Foundation and Compensatory Afforestation, were diverted by its predecessor to fund the Centre’s flagship initiative Ujjwala scheme, which provides free LPG cylinders to below poverty line families.
Chhattisgarh government’s records reveal that the Raman Singh-led BJP government had made a budget provision of Rs 55 crore for the Ujjwala scheme. However, it diverted finances from other schemes, including Rs 29 crore from a labour department scheme, Rs 212.90 crore from environment cess, Rs 47.08 crore from Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) and Rs 162.38 crore from District Mineral Foundation (DMF). CAMPA oversees compensatory afforestation which needs to be done in lieu of diversion of forest land for non-forestry use. As per the guidelines, CAMPA funds cannot be diverted for any other purpose.
DMF, a non-profit trust established in 2015 in all mining districts, has been planned as a dedicated board, which would work for the interest of persons and areas affected by mining. Like CAMPA, DMF guidelines prohibit any diversion to any other purpose. This is not the first time that diversion of DMF funds has been reported from Chhattisgarh. Last year, Centre for Science and Environment had pointed out that DMF funds in Chhattisgarh’s Korba district were used for building multi-level parking lots and convention centres in towns.
When contacted, a ministry of petroleum and natural gas official said, “The ministry bears the cost of Rs 1,600 per connection (which includes cylinder, pressure regulator, booklet, safety hose). The remaining has to borne by the beneficiary. Chhattisgarh government had told the ministry that it would bear the remaining cost. The Centre is not involved, in any way, on how the state provides the budget.”
The refill statistics have given more ammo to the Congress government. Against the national average of 82.45 per cent, Chhattisgarh has reported only about 53 per cent of Ujjwala beneficiaries coming for refills. Chhattisgarh Congress spokesperson Shailesh Nitin Trivedi said, “The Centre set ambitious and unrealistic targets under Ujjwala for the states purely for electoral gains. Under pressure from the Prime Minister, Chhattisgarh government diverted finances from several public schemes to distribute free cylinders.”