An imagery that has been used many a times by writers and filmmakers to depict the pathos of living on margins was that of women hunched over a chulha lit up with the uplas and wood, braving smoke, heat and rubbing her eyes with the corner of her saree.
Last year Prime Minister Narendra Modi appealed to the people to give up their LPG subsidy in favour of the less privileged and poor. In March this year speaking at an election rally in Jorhat, Assam, Modi said "85 lakh people have surrendered LPG subsidy in response to the request. People who gave up their subsidy are not rich. Some had even retired from work. This has helped many poor people."
He also added that it was his government’s endeavour to ensure that free gas connection is provided to about five crore poor families as “according to surveys, cooking in firewood leads to inhaling smoke which is equivalent to smoking 40 cigarettes”.
Modi's announcement of the 'Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana' in Ballia, Uttar Pradesh, on May Day is another step towards the plan to provide free LPG connections to 5 crore women beneficiaries from BPL families over the next 3 years.
The scheme which will cost state exchequer around Rs 8,000 crore, part of which will come from the money saved from those gas users who voluntarily giving up their subsidies.
India currently has 16.64 crore active LPG consumers with a consumption of 21 million metric tonnes of liquefied petroleum gas. During 2016-17, around 1.5 crore connections will be provided. The scheme provides a financial support of Rs 1,600 for each LPG connection to BPL households.
The World Health Organization, in its report in 2012, highlighted the grave health issues caused by the use of traditional chulhas.
“Globally, 4.3 million deaths were attributable to household air pollution (HAP) in 2012, almost all in low and middle income (LMI) countries. The south-east Asian and Western Pacific regions bear most of the burden with 1.69 and 1.62 million deaths, respectively. Almost 600000 deaths occur in Africa, 200000 in the Eastern Mediterranean region, 99000 in Europe and 81000 in the Americas. The remaining 19000 deaths occur in high income countries”, the report added.
While LPG cooking gas becomes an imperative in this backdrop, getting the connection was not easy till even the last decade. High level of corruption perpetuated by the gas agencies led to the black marketing of the connection which made it totally unaffordable for lower income group and LPG was something which BPL families could not even dream of.
While the money that was spend on getting the connection has been completely waived of, getting the stove and other accessories have also been made easy. The amount has been reduced substantially with the help of the dealers.
The beneficiary will not have to pay for it on spot rather the amount will be recovered from his subsidy; which instead of being deposited in his account will go to the account of the dealer from whom the beneficiary has bought the stove.
This means that the beneficiary will have to pay virtually nothing to switch over to LPG gas from their traditional chulhas at first instance.
Launching the scheme in Ballia on Sunday, Modi said, “This land of Ballia is a revolutionary land. This land gave us Mangal Pandey. People from here give their lives to the nation”
"The scheme will benefit poor families and particularly poor women".
He added that in the last 60 years on 13 crore families got LPG connection whereas in last one year NDA government gave LPG connection to 3 crore households. Ballia was chosen for the launch because it has the lowest LPG gas connection, he said.
Updated Date: May 01, 2016 14:01 PM