LPG facility to cover 85% Bengal households by 2019: Minister

Kolkata: Over Rs 3,000 crore would be spent to extend the LPG supply to 85 per cent of West Bengal's 2.15 crore households by adding at least 60 lakh new connections by 2019, Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Dharmendra Pradhan said here on Sunday. "We aim to extend the LPG cover to 85 per cent of the 2.15 crore households in Bengal, including both BPL (Below Poverty Line) and APL (Above Poverty Line) consumers," Pradhan said while launching the 'Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana' (PMUY) for West Bengal at the city's Nazrul Mancha. "In just two years, we have added 28 lakh new consumers to take the total LPG (liquified petroleum gas) connections to 1.10 crore in West Bengal. Our target is to add at least 60 lakh more consumers in the next three years." Pointing to "poor" LPG coverage in Bengal where at least 14 districts are below the national average, six of them with coverage under 30 per cent, Pradhan said the PMUY, which provides cooking gas connections to women from BPL households, will act as a boon. "To augment the LPG cover in Bengal, over Rs 3,000 crore will be invested. As much as Rs 700 crore will be spent for laying gas pipelines, import terminals and new bottling plants will be set up and the existing ones upgraded," he said. The new infrastructure being developed includes a Rs 190 crore facility coming up at Burdwan Panagarh in the state, which will be the country's biggest bottling plant.  The minister said he regreted the absence of state government representatives at the event, despite invitations to them, including Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. "I am sad nobody from the Bengal government is present. These schemes are for the poor and one should not look and find political colours in them. Despite extending personal invitations to them, including Didi, they did not turn up," he said. Taking a jibe at the Banerjee government, Pradhan warned people against middlemen. "The biggest threat to schemes for the poor are the middlemen and Bengal is famous for that. The Left used to claim they only know who are the poor and took the benefits for the party; they were driven out. But the 'Didi' (Banerjee) government is no different," he said. "This is a scheme for the poor and we will have to run it without any political influence or middlemen. That is why all connections will be granted through public events," he said.