- This article highlights the challenges in sustaining LPG adoption in rural India and emphasises that the goal must be a more sustainable energy basket per family.
- The Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas launched PMUY in 2016 to provide clean cooking fuel to poor households.
- It aims to provide 8 crore deposit free LPG connections to poor households. The connections are issued in the name of women of the households.
- The scheme increases the usage of LPG and helps in reducing health disorders, air pollution and deforestation. Use of fossil fuels and conventional fuel like cow-dung, firewood etc. has serious implications on the health of rural women and children.
- Initially, the beneficiaries were identified through Socio Economic Caste Census (SECC), 2011 data. The scope of PMUY has now been expanded to cover all the poor families in the country subject to fulfilling the terms and conditions.
- Under the scheme, cash assistance of Rs. 1600 is given to the beneficiaries to get a deposit-free new connection. Further, interest free loans are provided to purchase a stove and refill by Oil Marketing Companies.
- Recently, Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the second phase of Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana – Ujjwala 2.0.
- During Ujjwala 1.0, launched in 2016, a target was set to provide LPG connections to 5 crore women members of BPL households. Later, the target was revised to 8 Crore LPG connections which was achieved in August 2019.
- In the Union budget for Financial Year 2021-22, a provision for an additional one crore LPG connection under the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana was announced. These one crore additional connections under Ujjwala 2.0 aim to provide deposit-free LPG connections to those low-income families who could not be covered under the earlier phase of this scheme.
- Along with a deposit free LPG connection, Ujjwala 2.0 will provide first refill and hotplate free of cost to the beneficiaries.
- According to the recently released National Family Health Survey (NFHS)-5, there was a higher prevalence of TB in households that were using solid fuels when compared to those using clean cooking fuels in most States.
Data on LPG use
- Over the five years, the average per capita consumption among Ujjwala customers has hovered around three cylinders per year (of 14.2 kg), rising to 4.2 (2020-21).
- Relatively poorer Ujjwala consumers are reaching the LPG consumption levels of relatively well-off non-Ujjwala rural consumers.
- Completed the target of enlisting eight crore Ujjwala customers in late 2019.
How was this possible?
- Successful implementation of the Direct Benefit Transfer of LPG (DBTL) or PAHAL (Pratyaksh Hanstantrit Labh) scheme of 2014 which freed up the financial resources needed to dream of a large-scale programme for deposit-free LPG connections.
- Ujjwala was conceptualised and launched which ensured enhanced availability of LPG.
- Various capacities such as of the ports for handling imports, of tanks for storage of LPG, of pipelines and trucks for transportation of gas, and of bottling plants for filling in more cylinders were enhanced.
- Production of cylinders, pressure regulators, hose and affordable LPG stoves was also enhanced.
- New distributors/dealers were appointed to reach remote pockets.
- Enthusiasm for Ujjwala was sustained by creating avenues for local MPs and other elected representatives to support Ujjwala and its implementation.
Challenges in PMUY
- While the number of LPG distributors went up in the five years of Ujjwala, the number of administrative blocks which do not have an LPG distributor has come down drastically.
- The novel coronavirus pandemic has resulted in an increase in LPG prices.
- The push has to be such that every household moves toward adopting a more sustainable cooking energy basket.
- Improvements in regular and on-demand supplies of LPG
- Options for refill financing
- Alternative remunerative uses for cow dung and biomass
- (Possibly on the pattern of procurement of cow dung as is being done in Chhattisgarh)
- A massive boost to women’s incomes through the National Rural Livelihoods Mission
- These all have great potential to nudge women to choose a more sustainable cooking mix.