NEW DELHI: State-run fuel retailers operated their LPG bottling plants at full steam on Monday, Mahavir Jayanti, and will do so on Good Friday – both gazetted national holidays when the units remain shut – to avoid build-up of backlog as they begin supplying three free refills to eight crore poor households from this month.
Data shows IndianOil, HPCL and BPCL together operated 192 out of their 196 bottling plants across the country on Mahavir Jayanti to roll out 52 lakh cylinders, or nearly 87% of the current daily deliveries to consumers. The decision to operate the plants on holidays came in the wake of oil minister Dharmendra Pradhan asking the companies to ensure 100% delivery of free cylinders to the poor without affecting deliveries to general consumers, who are using 15% more fuel as families remain confined to their homes due to the lockdown.
The uninterrupted service by the oil companies on Wednesday drew praise from Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan, prompting Pradhan to thank him through a tweet and expressing solidarity with the people of Kerala in their fight against coronavirus.
The companies have started delivering the free cylinders to the poor households with LPG connection provided under the ‘Ujjwala’ scheme, the Narendra Modi government’s marque social welfare scheme. The free cylinder was announced as part of the government’s Rs 1.7 lakh crore relief package.
Together with more foodgrains provided under the package, it will ensure no poor household goes without food during the lockdown or thereafter till livelihoods are restored. The Ujjwala consumers will have the option of getting three regular refills of 14.2 kg or up to eight cylinders of 5 kg, commonly known as ‘Chhotua’.
The fuel retailers have started transferring the price of a cylinder as advance into the linked bank account of Ujjwala beneficiaries. They will do so by the fourth of May and June. In case a Ujjwala consumer does not take all the three cylinders by June, she can use the money to buy a refill anytime till March 2021.
Pradhan has also held talks with his counterparts from Saudi Arabia and UAE, India’s top two LPG suppliers, for additional shipments to meet rising demand.