Days after UIDAI action against Bharti Airtel, state-owned oil companies have started writing to the Sunil Mittal-led firm, asking it to transfer back the LPG subsidy that was credited to its payments bank accounts.
The country’s largest mobile operator has been accused of opening ‘Payments Bank’ account of its subscribers without seeking their “informed consent”.
Bharti Airtel, which also operates this new category of banks, has been allegedly using Aadhaar numbers of mobile subscribers to open their accounts, which led the subsidy to flow to the latest bank account linked to the biometric ID.
The subsidy that government pays to households for buying the cooking gas has got credited to these payments bank accounts, leading to inconvenience to users many of whom did not know that their entitlement was not coming to their regular bank account but going an account which they had not applied for.
Taking a lead, Hindustan Petroleum Corp Ltd (HPCL) has written to Airtel asking it to revert the subsidy to the customers’ earlier bank account or transfer the same to the oil companies.
In a statement, HPCL said oil marketing companies and the oil ministry have been getting a large number of complaints from LPG consumers on not receiving LPG subsidy amounts into their earlier bank accounts for the past few weeks.
“In many cases across the three oil marketing companies (Indian Oil Corp, Bharat Petroleum Corp Ltd and HPCL) where the Aadhaar linking of LPG consumers has got changed in the NPCI mapper to Airtel Payments Bank and hence the LPG subsidy is getting sent to the new bank account in the Airtel Payments Bank,” it said.
National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) is an umbrella organisation for all retail payments in India.
“HPCL has written to Airtel Bank and requested that the subsidy amounts of these consumers be immediately either transferred back to the customer’s earlier bank account or to the respective OMC’s,” the statement said.
Over Rs 167.7 crore LPG subsidy of 37.21 lakh LPG consumers has so far been deposited in Airtel Payments Bank accounts.
National biometric ID issuing authority UIDAI had on Saturday temporarily barred Airtel from using Aadhaar to authenticate mobile phone connections and opening new payment bank accounts.
In order to check diversions, the government pays subsidy equivalent to buying 12 LPG cylinders of 14.2 kg each in a year, directly into the bank accounts of beneficiaries.
Unlike in the past, LPG now is only available at market price. Beneficiaries get subsidy for one cylinder in advance and are replenished the moment they use it up to buying LPG refill.
According to senior government official, of the Rs 167.72 crore, Rs 88.18 crore of subsidy was transferred of 17.32 lakh consumers enrolled with Indian Oil Corp (IOC).
Just over Rs 40 crore subsidy belonged to 10.06 lakh consumers enrolled with HPCL and Rs 39.46 crore to 9.8 lakh consumers of Bharat Petroleum Corp Ltd (BPCL).
The UIDAI, in an interim order late last week, suspended the eKYC licence key of both Airtel Payments Bank and Airtel, which has 285 million subscribers.