Finding a healthy way to cook
NEWS As questions arise over the Ujjwala scheme’s success, it would be prudent to introduce alternative clean sources of energy.
- Launched in 2016, Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana is a scheme of the Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas which aims to safeguard the health of women & children by providing free LPG connections to economically weaker families.
- Under the scheme, cash assistance of Rs. 1600 is given to the beneficiaries to get a deposit-free new connection.
- The Prime Minister of India has recently introduced Ujjwala 2.0.
- Under Ujjwala 2.0, one crore additional PMUY connections aim to provide deposit-free LPG connections to those low-income families who could not be covered under the earlier phase of PMUY.
- Also under it, migrants will not be required to submit ration cards or address proof.
- The amount allocated for this purpose is ₹14,073 crore this year.
CONCERNS RELATED TO CLEAN COOKING IN INDIA
- In India (especially in rural areas), many women in poor households use firewood or dung cakes for cooking.
- Official data show that 48% rural households used LPG (2018) but only partially.
Waste of women’s time:
- The use of firewood and dung cakes requires spending long hours collecting firewood and making dung cakes.
Jeopardise health of the family:
- It affects health and puts the safety of the women in jeopardy, as they have longer exposure to indoor pollution.
- Using firewood and dung cakes also leads to indoor pollution, as chulhas (firewood-based stoves) using these sources of energy release carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
- Both these gases have an adverse impact on the health of the family members. They also impact the environment.
PREVIOUS EFFORTS BY THE GOVERNMENT
- Earlier the solution to this problem — smokeless or fuel-efficient chulhas for cooking — was introduced in the 1980s.
- The National Programme on Improved Chulha was launched in 1984.
- This was backed by training programmes for making and maintaining these chulhas.
- But these programmes failed due to following reasons:
- Subsidies to the programme were withdrawn,
- governments lost interest,
- people could not be convinced to use the new chulhas and did not participate,
- target beneficiaries were not properly identified,
- little quality control efforts were made.
- The Indian government then introduced Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) in June 2013 under the PAHAL scheme on an experimental basis.
- It was expected that access to clean energy would alleviate the public health burden posed by household air pollution on women.
- Also it would improve women’s access to education, leisure, and the labour market, and also improve the environment, climate, and human health.
Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMYU):
- In 2016, the government launched the LPG scheme as the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana.
- Under this scheme, NITI Aayog laid out a road map for universal access to LPG by 2025.
- The subsidy for LPG was increased from ₹12,000 crore in 2016-17 to ₹21,000 crore in 2017-18, and 94% of all households had an LPG connection as of September 2019, an increase from 56% in 2014-15.
- But as per evaluation studies, many LPG connection holders were found to still be using other fuels like firewood and dung cakes.
FINDINGS OF STUDIES ON CLEAN COOKING
- Studies found that the poor use LPG mainly for making tea or snacks while they continue to use firewood or cow dung for their main cooking, as these sources of fuel are free of cost and easily available.
- Also the ill usage of LPG can be attributed to the fact that- men, who usually make the decision of buying the refill, often do not agree to a refill which is expensive for the poor.
- Usually, as low value is attached to women’s time in production, the opportunity cost of women’s labour is low even when a capital subsidy is available, and women have to depend on traditional fuels.
- LPG is used for cooking when the opportunity cost of women’s labour is considered high, such as in the peak season in farming.
- LPG cylinders are not a priority for the poorest. They sometimes even sell the cylinder to meet their urgent needs.
- The other problems in accessing LPG are administrative and include the distance to LPG distribution centres, long waiting time, and rising costs of LPG cylinders.
PROBLEM WITH UJJWALA 2.0
- Introduction of Ujjwala 2.0 indicates that- the planners have not looked at the evaluation studies of Ujjwala 1.0 and the official data on the performance of the scheme.
- There is no doubt that crores of poor and middle class women need better sources of cooking energy that are time saving, healthy, easily accessible and affordable.
- But it is to be noted that LPG works well, but only for non-poor households.
- The poor need affordable alternatives to choose from, such as solar energy and solar cookers, smokeless chulhas, biogas plants and electric cookers where electricity is cheap.
- Hence, good research and development efforts need to be made in the public and private sectors to explore these alternatives.
- As one solution may not fit all, there is a need to offer a set of energy sources to households so that each of them finds a suitable energy for itself. Women in India can achieve energy security for cooking only through cheaper and efficient alternatives.
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