The Petroleum Ministry has lowered the target for providing new piped natural gas (PNG) connections and setting up gas dispensing outlets, after missing this year’s target by almost 75 per cent until last month. At a review meeting on January 12, the ministry — for the second time — lowered the annual 2017-18 target for PNG to 7.5 lakh from 10.94 lakh quoted on September 13. On May 9, the target was pegged at 12 lakh for the entire fiscal year, according to documents accessed by The Indian Express. For compressed natural gas (CNG) stations, the number has been revised to 125 outlets from 180 quoted on May 9.
Sources said progress has been slow due to lack of focused efforts at the field level, low paying power in smaller towns for installation, and low visibility across the country. “We have asked the ministry to intervene in declaring LPG-free zones so that consumers shift to piped gas,” they said.
However, ministry officials said they were not in favour of delineating PNG-only zones as it could result in court cases.
The documents show that the gas entities could enrol only 3.33 lakh new customers for PNG and install 47 CNG stations as of last December — just 27.75 per cent 12 lakh to 10.9 lakh to 7.5 lakh: Govt lowers piped gas target again and 26.11 per cent respectively of the overall annual 2017-18 target of 12 lakh and 180 stations.
The roadmap for the future has also been altered, with the annual targets being revised to 20 lakh PNG connections in 2018-19 and 40 lakh in 2019-20, “keeping 10 per cent slack”.
Sources said the revised roadmap could still meander from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s goal of extending PNG connections to one crore households, given that the present number stands at 39.3 lakh — just 11 lakh added in nearly three years. In March 2015, the PM had pledged to provide PNG connections to one crore households “in the next four years”.
The push has not been visible despite efforts by the ministry. Last August, it asked public sector undertakings to nominate an officer for the City Gas Distribution (CGD) programme, warning that the officer’s performance-related-pay would be linked to the outcomes.
When that did not work, the ministry suggested that the CGD entities focus on clusters like government and residential colonies, cantonment areas, railway colonies, PSU townships etc where there was “ample scope for PNG penetration”.