Serious safety concerns raised over PM Modi's LPG scheme for poor households
According to the Federation of LPG Distributors of India, the ‘hastily’ implemented Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana ignored or did not address safety concerns
In a serious blow to PM Modi’s ambitious Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY), the Federation of LPG Distributors of India (FLDI) has flagged some serious security concerns in the scheme, owing to its "hasty" implementation.
The scheme, launched this year in May, has the aim of providing smoke-free kitchens to poor households by supplying 50 million free LPG connections. The Rs 8,000 crore initiative is being implemented by the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, and has already covered more than 8 million families in 15 states.
FLDI, in a press conference on Tuesday, while lauding the intentions behind the initiative, said that there are serious concerns about the safety and implementation of the scheme, even before its announcement by the government.
It alleged that the association’s repeated requests to the Ministry, to take appropriate measures in order to avoid any unfortunate accidents that could derail the process of the welfare, “have fallen on deaf ears.”
“The PMUY scheme is a good example of 'good intention, bad implementation'. This scheme has the potential of positively changing the lives of millions. However, unplanned and haphazard implementation has not just risked the lives of the poorest of the poor, but has also put them under tremendous financial burden," said Pawan Soni, general secretary, FLDI, while addressing the issue at the event.
"Distributors refuse to take any further responsibility of the PMUY campaign until the ministry addresses the issue raised by the association and we feel that despite the noble cause of the scheme, it should not be extended in its current form, which puts its benefactors and their families at great personal risk,” Soni said.
Highlighting a gas leak incident that led to the demise of an entire family in Saharanpur, along with the sole breadwinner of a neighbouring family, FLDI said that the incident could have been avoided had the Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs) and the Ministry paid heed to the suggestions made by the distributors.
Soni further added, “We started sending out communications to the Ministry, mentioning the loopholes in the initiative even prior to the announcement of the scheme. However, it seems that the government has missed to acknowledge the same. Today, we hope to get the attention of our honourable Prime Minister, under whose great vision PMUY has been implemented, albeit in a flawed manner."
“We are confident that the Petroleum Ministry would be considerate, as always, and won’t compel us to resort to any unpleasant route to get our genuine demands addressed concerning the safety of the public at large and the constant physical and mental harassment of the distributors due to operational/financial constraints. By this press conference we aim to get your attention on the severity of the issue or it may lead to great mishaps,” Soni said.
The association also declared that if the Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas does not call for a meeting, the entire distributors’ fraternity would go for a pan-India strike.
The association also released several letters written to various officials within the Ministry. In one such letter, written to Dharmendra Pradhan, Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas, FLDI stated, “Sir, one of the most important aspects in implementation of PMUY, that we all are worried about and are continuously trying to improve by our collective efforts, is the 'safety' of the targeted beneficiaries. All our collective efforts are getting diluted due to the negligence of the people associated with the advertising campaign of PMUY.”
It added, “The advertising body is not only neglecting the safety parameters of the flagship scheme launched by our honourable prime minister himself but is also making it difficult for the distributors spreading safety awareness amongst the targeted beneficiaries by publishing/showing contradictory photos, videos on social media with hotplate on the floor/spurious rubber hose etc”
“The role of PSUs such as IOCL, BPCL, HPCL should be investigated. We wonder why these OMCs did not update the Ministry regarding the potential danger in carrying out the scheme in its present ‘unsafe’ form. Instead, the OMCs started competing with each other and compelled the distributors’ to meet the preset unrealistic targets. They set the guidelines but never let the distributors follow them. Distributors suffered loss on each and every connection they were compelled to release under PMUY,” said PV Rao, president, FLDI.
Some of the red flags identified by the FLDI are:
- More than 90 percent of the households of economically backward targeted beneficiaries fail to meet the safety parameters required for installing an LPG connection – due to lack of infrastructure and poor living conditions.
- No safety awareness campaign was launched to create awareness among the targeted beneficiaries.
- Despite repeated requests, OMCs are not providing pilferage-proof cylinders.
- OMCs only provide insurance but no mediclaim policy in case of any unfortunate incident.
The central point of the concerns raised by the federation was that the people who are given the LPG connections belong to the deprived class, are uneducated and in most of the cases, are unaware of the safety measures.
According to FLDI, the ‘hastily’ implemented scheme ignored or did not pay much attention to safety concerns, leading to incidents like the one in Saharanpur.
Modi cited the government's success in privatising loss-making public airline Air India to assert that this shows its commitment and seriousness.
Modi tweeted, "I pray for the good health and speedy recovery of Dr. Manmohan Singh Ji."
Indian Space Association (ISpA) represents homegrown and global corporations with advanced capabilities in space and satellite technologies