In a recent interview, Prime Minister Narendra Modi claimed full credit for transferring LPG subsidies directly to consumers. He also took a potshot at the Congress Party, saying that “the so-called pro-poor have been just repeating that there is leakage in subsidy”, implying that his government had done all the heavy lifting here.
The Modi government’s achievements with the Direct Benefits Transfer for LPG (DBTL) scheme, now christened the PAHAL Yojana, certainly seem impressive:
But, once again, Modi has misspoken. The Congress Party-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government launched the DBTL scheme in pilot form on 1 June 2013 and expanded it to 291 (of 676) districts on 1 January 2014, when it covered 96 million consumers. Between 1 June 2013 and 8 March 2014, the scheme disbursed Rs 54 billion (US$900 million) in subsidies to 28 million consumers.
Modi’s National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government relaunched a rejigged DBTL on 15 November 2014 in 54 districts, and expanded it nationwide on 1 January 2015. The scheme now has enrolled 129 million LPG consumers and disbursed a total of Rs 122 billion (US$1.9 billion) in fuel subsidies (though we don’t know how many consumers have actually benefited).
In short, the UPA enrolled 74% of all DBTL consumers, and the NDA has distributed about the same amount of cash to LPG consumers (albeit in a shorter period). Frankly, it’s a little silly to compare the records of two successive governments regarding a single scheme, since the second is obviously building on the work of the first, which in this case designed and rolled out the programme.