Coverage of clean cooking fuel, LPG in India increases to 72%: Pradhan

Moving with the aim of eradicating the misdirected subsidies (going to the rich and upper middle class) and providing access of clean cooking fuel to homes in rural India , the government in the past two years initiated various schemes like PAHAL, Ujjwala, “Give it up” and “Give back” that have together yielded notable results.

Coverage of clean cooking fuel, LPG in India increases to 72%: Pradhan

In line with the government’s vision to make India a gas based economy, all-out efforts are being made to provide access of LPG (clean cooking gas) to all rural kitchens and rural women who have been fighting the menace of smoke by using wood in their kitchens.

Moving with the aim of eradicating the misdirected subsidies (going to the rich and upper middle class) and providing access of clean cooking fuel to homes in rural India , the government in the past two years initiated various schemes like PAHAL, Ujjwala, “Give it up” and “Give back” that have together yielded notable results.

Union minister of state for petroleum and natural gas Dharmendra Pradhan said on Monday that with the concerted efforts of the government, the LPG coverage in India has now increased to 72%.

“Our Government is striving to achieve universal LPG coverage in India. LPG expansion and penetration is ensuring right to access clean cooking fuel to every citizen of our country. I personally believe that providing access to clean cooking fuel to every household is not only our duty but it’s also a social obligation for all of us,” he said while addressing a gathering ahead of the 2-Day WLPGA 2017 Asia LPG summit in New Delhi beginning from Tuesday.

“We have already increased the national LPG coverage to 70% and we may even reach 85% in 2 years,” he added.

In 2014, when the Modi government assumed office, almost half of Indian households didn’t have LPG connections. “We took it as a challenge and decide to change the LPG landscape in India,” Pradhan said.

First, the PAHAL scheme–that means Direct benefit transfer of LPG subsidy directly into the bank accounts of the beneficiaries, was announced.  This made the process transparent and plugged the subsidy leakages which was otherwise being misused through ghost accounts.

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The success of PAHAL is evident from the fact it made it to the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s largest cash benefit transfer scheme. The scheme is benefitting over 176 million consumers and over Rs. 40,000 crore or $6.5 billion of subsidy has been transferred directly to the beneficiaries bank accounts in the last two years. It has also resulted in estimated saving of over Rs. 21,000 crore or USD 3.2 billion in two years to the government.

An intensive exercise was also carried out for identifying duplicate/ fake/ ghost/ inactive domestic LPG connections and as on 1 April 2015, 33.4 million connections were identified.

Using PAHAL, the oil marketing companies blocked these connections and saved Rs 210 billion subsidy in 2014-15 and 2015-16. Commercial LPG sales increased by 40% in period April 2015 – March 2016 in contrast to pre-PAHAL when these sales were not growing at all, showing how the subsidized residential supply was earlier diverted to commercial.

After Pahal, another scheme was launched called the “Give it up” and “Give back” –a voluntary scheme where affluent consumers who could afford to buy LPG at the market price, were encouraged to give up their entitlement to subsidy, so that the same could be used to provide more connections to poorest of poor.

Pradhan said that alongwith an appeal of Prime Minister, citizens set high standards of voluntarism and participative democracy by giving up their LPG subsidy. Over 12 million consumers have given up their LPG subsidy which has helped in ensuring access to LPG connections to the under-privileged people, he said.

“Friends you will be surprised that amazingly, these are not only rich and upper middle class households but teachers, retired persons, government employees who have given up their LPG subsidy. I am very proud of these individuals who have voluntarily given up their subsidy and in many occasions we have publicly honored them to recognize their noble deed,” the minister said, adding tha these households are now paying market linked prices of LPG.

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This, he said, has helped the government provide subsidy to the needy. “Nearly 6.3 million new LPG connections have been released to poor (BPL) families in 2015-16 linked to the Give it back campaign and utilizing Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) funds of our oil marketing companies (OMCs).”

Globally many multilateral agencies like the World Bank have highly praised “Give it up” campaign, sighting it as finest example of voluntary citizen participation in governance process.

Then came the most ambitious scheme to ensure  access of clean cooking fuel LPG  to the poorest of the poors —or the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana.

Under Ujjwala programme which was launched in May 2016, a target has been set to provide 50 million LPG connections over a period of three years for the poor households, with the budgetary support of Rs 8000 crore or $1.5 billion.

“It’s a matter of great happiness that the target of 15 million  connections fixed for the current financial year  2016-17 has been achieved within a span of less than 8 months. Friends, most heartening this is that 37% of the beneficiaries belong marginalised communities,” Pradhan said.

The PMUY scheme, he said, is bringing huge health benefits to poor households especially women by giving them access to smoke free clean cooking fuel. As on today, we have provided 16 million LPG connections under Ujjawala Scheme.

States with poor LPG access have benefited the most by this scheme. Top five states that have benefited as on December 2016, are Uttar Pradesh with 4.6 million connections, West Bengal with 1.9 million, Bihar with 1.9 million, Madhya Pradesh with 1.7 million and Rajasthan with 1.4 million. I am confident that we will exceed this target. We have already increased the national LPG coverage to 70% and we may even reach 85% in 2 years.

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Speaking on the recent reform move of de-monetizing higher currency notes in November 2016, Pradhan said that dspite initial difficulties faced by general population, this move has received massive public support.

“Hon’ble Prime Minister has the vision to make our country a less cash using system. The enabler is the JAM trinity. J stands for Jan-dhan – these are banks accounts that were provided to the poor, who till recently were excluded from the financial system. More than 260 million bank accounts were opened under this scheme within six months of PM Modi coming to power,” he said.

A stands for AADHAR – which is a biometric identity card that has reached more than 99% of the more than 5 year old population. And M is the mobile phone – which are more than a billion in India.

Going forward, using these three most of the digital transactions will take place and use of cash will be minimized. “Our Oil Marketing Companies have started several mechanisms to make all transactions cash less. Customers can now book and make full payment for LPG cylinders online and even receive INR 5 discount per cylinder. So in the entire value chain of LPG, we would make use of digital technology,” the minister said.

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