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Dharmendra Jore, Hindustan Times
Mumbai, October 06, 2012
 The state government seems to be in no hurry to provide additional subsidised cooking gas cylinders. While the chief minister wants only the economically weak sections to benefit from the scheme, the state is keen on assessing the financial burden and studying the distribution and consumption pattern in the state’s households.

The Centre, on September 13, restricted the annual supply of subsidised domestic LPG cylinders to six for every household. The Congress later increased the number of subsidised cylinders to nine in states ruled by their party. On Monday, oil companies increased the rate of non-subsidised cylinders from Rs767 to Rs894.

State Congress chief Manikrao Thakre had earlier demanded a quick decision on the issue. Consumers had expected the state Cabinet to take up the issue in Thursday’s meeting.  Senior party ministers also had a meeting at water conservation minister Nitin Raut’s residence on Thursday to come up with a plan to influence the CM to bring the proposal before the Cabinet soon. “The proposal has not been prepared yet,” said a senior Mantralaya officer. “Till then, consumers can avail of the quota of three [for the remaining months of the financial year] cylinders.”

Chief minister Prithviraj Chavan has apparently asked officials to prepare a report with details on the distribution chains, actual beneficiaries and misuse of gas, if any, in the open market. “Thankfully, the number of LPG consumers is recorded with distributors and details like their residential addresses too are available,” Chavan had said in his recent media interaction.

A close aide of Chavan said that the CM wants the Centre to fix the subsidy amount because it is subject to change depending on the international prices. “The CM doesn’t want people who are eligible to pay the income tax to avail of the subsidy,” he said.

The state Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) demanded that people with a monthly income of Rs5 lakh and above and those paying tax returns should be excluded from the scheme. With 1.71 crore LPG consumers in the state, the state exchequer is expected to take a hit of more than Rs1,600-2000 crore, said another official. “The state has spent a lot on drought relief. We will have be cautious before declaring a subsidy,” he said.