|Demand of the question|
Introduction. Contextual introduction.
Body. Achievements, issues and significance of the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana.
Conclusion. Way forward.
In order to provide clean cooking fuel to BPL households in the country, the Government had launched Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY) scheme. It aims to provide 8 Crore deposit-free LPG connections to women belonging to the Below Poverty Line (BPL) families. Implementation of PMUY has resulted in significant increase in national LPG coverage. The scheme has resulted in mass coverage of rural poor households and 48% of the beneficiaries are SC/STs.
Achievements of Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana:
- The initial target of 5 crore connections was achieved well before the target i.e. 31st March, 2019. According to the official PMUY website, by January 2019, 64 million LPG connections have been provided under the Ujjwala scheme, resulting in it being considered one of the most successful and effective social sector programmes in India.
- Under the PMUY the average per capita consumption is 3.28 cylinders. This should be seen as a positive change in the lives of these households which were long dependent on the traditional cooking fuels and methods.
- LPG Panchayats are being observed to promote learning through peer group interaction – Kuch Seekhein, Kuch Sikhayein, where apart from experience sharing, it also aims at safe and sustained usage of LPG. Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs) as on date have conducted 59,960 nos. of LPG Panchayats and safety clinics for education and awareness programs among PMUY beneficiaries.
- To make LPG affordable to poor families, OMCs have introduced 5 Kg refill option to Ujjwala beneficiaries where in Ujjwala beneficiary can swap 14.2 Kg cylinder with 5 Kg refill and vice versa.
- PMUY implementation has been appreciated by the World Health Organization (WHO) and termed it as a decisive intervention to check the indoor health pollution being faced by the women of the country.
Some issues concerning the scheme:
- Issue of refill and affordability: Refilling of LPG gas connections saw a fall in refill from 35000 in 2016-17 to 13000 in 2018. Also, several complaints of affordability was raised as a reluctance of adoption was shown. While the number of LPG connections across India has increased by an impressive 16.26% since the scheme was launched, the use of gas cylinders increased by only 9.83%.
- Behavioural Limitations: It requires behavioural changes as it is difficult to give up on age old practices of using traditional chulhas with a lack of awareness among people regarding benefits of use of LPG gases.
- Inactive and corrupt uses: Many inactive accounts were identified, with some accounts bearing false beneficiaries using LPG for commercial and profitable purposes.
Significance of Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana:
- Health: Research showed that people using solid biomass frequently suffer from headaches, nausea, chronic bronchitis and many skin diseases. Indoor air pollution and acute respiratory illnesses caused by it were observed in most rural women.
- Women empowerment: Ujjwala has empowered women and protected them and their families through the use of clean burning fuel by helping prevent a significant number of acute respiratory illnesses and other ailments.
- Safety: Women going to the forests for collecting firewood are also often exposed to health and safety issues, even sexual harassment at times. This is considerably decreased as a result of the LPG connections.
- Economic empowerment: Release of LPG connection under this Scheme shall be in the name of the women belonging to the BPL family enabling the subsidy provision in the women’s account. Also, using LPG saves time for women as they do not have to collect solid fuel and then use it for cooking, with this cooking time can be effectively used in other economic activities. Women in many villages formed self-help groups to indulge in community economic activities in their free time.
- Environment: There is a definite positive impact on forest cover and the environment from stopping the use of firewood.
- Youth employment: It will also provide employment for rural youth in the supply chain of cooking gas. Employment in the logistics and maintenance services are an additional benefit.
‘Give it up’ campaign, LPG Panchayat etc have been remarkable in bringing in behavioural changes. Target beneficiary expansion and identification must be carried out carefully to eliminate fake accounts and corrupt use of the scheme. Government needs to ensure and provide subsidies refills and that rural households are able and willing to pay for them. This enhances their health and quality of life, as well as urban air quality. It is a social investment.