KATHMANDU, Sept 14: It is official now. Students pursuing +2 and higher education in public or community-run colleges will get kerosene and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) at subsidized rates from September 17.
The subsidy for students became certain after the cabinet meeting on Thursday endorsed a proposal to this connection submitted by the Ministry of Commerce and Supplies (MoCS).
Under the scheme, each student pursuing higher education in public sector institutions will now get a total of 4 cylinders of LPG a year (that is a cylinder every three months) at subsidized rate, which will be cheaper than the NOC set rates by Rs 250 per cylinder.
Likewise, students will be entitled to receive 10 liters of kerosene a month at rates cheaper than the market rate by Rs 10 per liter.
At present, LPG is priced at Rs 1,470 per cylinder (of 14.2 kgs) and kerosene at Rs 97 per liter. “Effectively the scheme will enable students using LPG to cook their food to save Rs 1,000 per annum, while students using kerosene will get annual subsidy of Rs 1,200,” said a MoCS official.
However, the students will not get the subsidy at the time of purchase, but will need to claim for it after purchasing the fuel at retail rates.
“The students will need to pay in full when they buy the fuel, and will need to claim the subsidy from the accounts section of their respective colleges by submitting the purchase receipt,” said the source.
The MoCS worked out such a mechanism mainly as it believed involvement of colleges and universities in the reimbursement process would make them accountable, thereby facilitating control of possible misuse of the subsidy.
The government estimates that around 500,000 students pursuing higher education in the public sector colleges and universities will be directly benefitted from the scheme. But it is estimated to add financial burden of Rs 500 million per year on the government.
´Mockery to the Poor´
The decision of the government to pledge subsidy to just one group of consumers has drawn serious criticism from various quarters.
“The state has made a mockery of 25 percent poor population and still larger section of marginalized groups, who fail to manage even two square meals. The first priority of subsidy should have been toward them. But perhaps the government´s perception is: why do the poor need fuel if they cannot manage food!” said Ram Chandra Simkhada, secretary of Consumers Rights Protection Forum.
Officials at the Ministry of Finance agreed that the decision has set a very wrong priority. “Students who are pursuing higher education in the urban centers largely belong to relatively better off families. Providing subsidy to them just because they are vocal and politically active is ridiculous,” said an official there, requesting anonymity.
Consumers´ rights activists like Simkhada do not object students getting the subsidy, but their argument is; families whose income level and status is similar to that of families´ having college going members too should get the facility.
Officials at the MoCS said the government was providing subsidy to the poor and marginalized groups as well. “But we could not finalize it due to the lack of clear identification of the target groups. We will provide subsidy to them once the government distributes ID cards to the poor,” said Dipak Pandey, under secretary at the MoCS.
The government has declared that it will complete distribution of identity cards to the poor in 25 districts within 4 months.