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LPG dealers: Discretion is back in name of ‘merit’

The discretionary quota regime was stopped in 1996 after The Indian Express exposed irregularities in allotment of pumps and agencies by former Congress ministers B Shankaranand and Satish Sharma for alleged abuse of their discretionary quotas between 1993 and 1996.

Written by Amitav Ranjan | New Delhi |
May 26, 2016 5:37:24 am
NDA government, modi government, LPG dealers, LP cylinder distribution, LPG subsidy, LPG quota, petroleum ministry, black LPG cylinder, Dharmendra Pradhan, petrol pumps, irregularities in allotment of pumps, ram naik, indian express news, india news, latest news There will be a “separate policy for direct allotment of distributorship to (an) individual in exceptional cases on merit”, according to the proposed Unified Guidelines for Selection of LPG Distributorship 2016 approved by Petroleum Minister.

THE NDA government is considering bringing back discretionary quota for the Petroleum Ministry in allotment of gas agencies and petrol pumps — under the garb of “merit”.

There will be a “separate policy for direct allotment of distributorship to (an) individual in exceptional cases on merit”, according to the proposed Unified Guidelines for Selection of LPG Distributorship 2016 approved by Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan last Friday.

“Under exceptional cases and circumstances, the Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas reserves its rights to allot direct LPG distributorship to any individual in consultation with OMCs (Oil Marketing Companies). A specific guideline to be formulated in this respect,” it added.

LPG

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The discretionary quota regime was stopped in 1996 after The Indian Express exposed irregularities in allotment of pumps and agencies by former Congress ministers B Shankaranand and Satish Sharma for alleged abuse of their discretionary quotas between 1993 and 1996. It was scrapped by the United Front Government following criticism by the Supreme Court.

In May 2001, NDA’s Petroleum Minister Ram Naik invoked Operation Vijay (military operation to push back infiltrators in Kargil) and terrorist attacks to revive the discretionary quota, but limited it to dependants of defence/paramilitary/police personnel or Central/state government employees who were killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty.

Naik’s argument was that the apex court had not banned discretionary quota but only wanted proper guidelines to be laid down.

The selection then was vested with the Minister aided by marketing heads of the OMCs and the Executive Director of the Oil Coordination Committee.

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But the UPA abolished the discretiinary quota in December 2006 saying that assistance to defence and government personnel could be taken care of under the 8-per cent reservation available for this category in both Open and SC/ST groups. Since then, the grouping has been expanded to include OBCs.

The Indian Express sent an email to the ministry seeking clarification of what it meant by “merit” and the “exceptional cases and circumstances” would be for direct allotment to an individual. The spokesperson said: “There is no such proposal under consideration of the Ministry.”

However, the finalized guidelines mention: “In the rarest of rare case, the Ministry reserves its rights to allot LPG distributorships to any individual, in consultation with OMCs, for special cases like Operation Vijay and victims of terrorist attacks, etc.”

The Ministry has retained the 8 per cent reservation under “government personnel” category but added ex-servicemen, including from the central paramilitary forces, to the eligible list of disabled servicemen, dependents and widows of martyr servicemen/ government employees.

Pradhan’s 2016 guidelines segregate the reservation under existing 4 per cent “combined category” into 3 per cent for physically handicapped and 1 per cent (earlier 3 percent) for outstanding sportspersons and freedom fighters.

It also provides separate reservation of one-third of all distributorships and dealerships to women across all three groups and three categories.

The new norms would usher online application and selection with web online facility for submission, processing of applications and dealer selection by computer-aided draw of lots. Currently, the draw is done at a public gathering in the presence of at least half of the applicants and the entire process is videographed.

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