In India, the poor have limited access to cooking gas (LPG). The spread of LPG cylinders has been predominantly in the urban and semi-urban areas with the coverage mostly in middle class and affluent households. But there are serious health hazards associated with cooking based on fossil fuels. According to WHO estimates, about 5 lakh deaths in India alone due to unclean cooking fuels. Most of these premature deaths were due to non-communicable diseases such as heart disease, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lung cancer. Indoor air pollution is also responsible for a significant number of acute respiratory illnesses in young children. Let’s look at how did Pradhan Mantra Ujjawala Yojna perform?
According to experts, having an open fire in the kitchen is like burning 400 cigarettes an hour. The Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana is a scheme of the Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas for providing LPG connections to women from Below Poverty Line (BPL) households. Providing LPG connections to BPL households will ensure universal coverage of cooking gas in the country. This measure will empower women and protect their health. It will reduce drudgery and the time spent on cooking. It will also provide employment for rural youth in the supply chain of cooking gas.
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Under the scheme, five crore LPG connections are to be provided to BPL households. The identification of eligible BPL families will be made in consultation with the State Governments and the Union Territories.
On 3rd April 2017, scheme crossed its required target of 1.5 crores and currently around 2 crore households have adopted this scheme and seeing the enthusiastic response of people, the government has increased the budget from rupee 2000 crore to 2500 crore for the first year of this scheme.
The main purpose of the scheme is to protect the health of people in rural areas especially women and infants from the respiratory problems they undergo because of the Indian rural conventional cooking system of smoke chullhas. While the selection of beneficiaries would be from the BPL families only, preference would be given to SC/ST and weaker sections of society. While providing the new connections to BPL households, priority would be given to the States which have lower LPG coverage (compared to the national average) as on 1st Jan 2016.
The release of LPG connection under Ujjawala Scheme shall be in the name of the women belonging to the BPL family. The Government has also decided to cover the following categories under the Scheme:-
All SC/STs households beneficiaries of Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana(PMAY) (Gramin) Antyoday Anna Yojana (AAY) Forest dwellers Most Backward Classes (MBC) Tea & Ex-Tea Garden Tribes People residing in Islands People residing in river islands. Duration of the scheme The Scheme would be implemented over three years, namely, the FY 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19 across the country.
However, a study commissioned in 2015 said that for the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana to succeed, the price of gas cylinders would have to be reduced. Eighteen months after the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana was launched, the scheme is achieving its targets magnificently. It is, however, failing in its objective of persuading households to stop using firewood and traditional biomass fuels that have the potential to cause respiratory diseases.
While Dalits got 445 petrol pumps under 2010-14 during the UPA rule, more than 1200 of them got it during 2014-18 in his government’s rule, he said, adding the corresponding figures for LPG distribution centres for the community are over 900 and 1300.
The reason for customers not returning for a refill after receiving the connection and cylinder free of cost can probably be attributed to the high cost of even a subsidised cylinder – Rs 450. Kerosene (Rs 20 per liter) or firewood, in that case, are much cheaper options. PMUY scheme beneficiaries also are not required to pay the security deposit or any other overhead costs while taking LPG connections, and can even opt to pay in installments for the gas stove and first refill at the time of getting the connection. These concessions, however, do not apply for the second refill. Last month, petroleum minister Dharmendra Pradhan, while inaugurating the PMUY for BPL families in Assam, said that the government’s target was to give five crore families across the country LPG connections.
The states which have benefited the most from this scheme, according to the government, are Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar. Pradhan Mantri Ujjawala Yojna is a historic opportunity to provide LPG connections to truly deserving ones. It will help in reducing the pollution and improving the quality of life of poor households. A total budgetary allocation of Rs. 8,000 crore has been made by the government for the implementation of the scheme over three years. The money saved in LPG subsidy through the “Give-it-Up” campaign ( where gas users voluntarily give up their LPG subsidy) will be diverted for the implementation of the scheme. It will distribute LPG connections to around 1.5 crores BPL families within the current financial year. Hence Government must implement this programme with letter and spirit.
However, the government may have met or even exceeded its target for the distribution of LPG connections, but it needs to look into whether the scheme has actually been successful in encouraging beneficiary households to switch to using clean cooking fuel.