The ruling Indian National Congress government in Chhattisgarh has found that the previous government in the state headed by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Raman Singh diverted funds from several social welfare schemes to the Centre’s flagship initiative Ujjwala scheme, according to a report in The Economic Times.
As per Chhattisgarh government’s records, the BJP government had diverted 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) to Ujjawala scheme. As per the guidelines, funds for CAMPA and DMF cannot be diverted for any other purpose.
While CAMPA oversees compensatory afforestation which needs to be done in lieu of diversion of forest land for non-forestry use, DMF looks after the interest of persons and areas affected by mining.
The budgetary allocation made for Ujjwala scheme was Rs 55 crore. Under this scheme, the government provides free LPG cylinders to families below the poverty line.
However, this was not the first time that diversion of DMF funds has been reported from Chhattisgarh. In 2018, the 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.
A Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas official told the newspaper that the ministry bears the cost of Rs 1,600 per connection (which includes cylinder, pressure regulator, booklet and safety hose). The remaining has to be 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 official added.
In Chhattisgarh, only about 53 percent of Ujjwala beneficiaries come for refills as against the national average of 82.45 percent, the report suggests.
Moneycontrol could not independently verify the report.
“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,” Chhattisgarh Congress Spokesperson Shailesh Nitin Trivedi told the newspaper.