After providing 60 lakh free LPG (cooking gas) connections to the rural poor in the past one year, the government is now planning to give another 5 crore free of cost LPG connections to poor families (Below Poverty Line) over the next 3 years.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on May 1 will do a nationwide launch of an Rs 8,000 crore scheme to provide 5 crore free LPG connections to BPL families. India currently has 16.64 crore active LPG consumers with a consumption of 21 million metric tonnes of LPG (60 per cent of which is produced in India and 40% is imported).
To be called as the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana, the scheme will provide free LPG connections to women from BPL households and will be launched at Ballia in Uttar Pradesh and Dahod in Gujarat on May 15.
“Under the scheme, Rs. 8,000 crore has been earmarked for providing 5 crore LPG connections to BPL households,” Minister of state for petroleum and natural gas, Dharmendra Pradhan said on Thursday.
During 2016-17, around 1.5 crore connections will be provided, Pradhan said, adding that funds for the same are already in place.
“We are comfortably placed (on the funds side) to give 1.5 cr free LPG connections this year,” the minister said.
The cost of providing these free of cost LPG connections will be met from the money that is saved out of the 1.13 crore cooking gas connections on which the well-off users of the society have voluntarily given by their subsidies under the ongoing ‘Give-it-Up’ campaign. This campaign seeking the well-heeled to voluntarily surrender cooking gas subsidies for one year was launched in January, 2015.
Pradhan said that since the launch of this campaign, as many as 1.13 crore people have given-up their LPG subsidies and are buying cooking gas at market price. “In lieu of savings on this account, we have released 60 lakh new connection to poor in the last one year,” the minister said.
The top contributing states that make for 50% or over 55 lakh consumers includes Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. Maharashtra tops the list with 16.44 lakh consumers giving up subsidies, followed by Uttar Pradesh at 13 lakh users gave up subsidies, Delhi with 7.26 lakh people giving up subsidies.
“Five states of Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu account for roughly half of the people who have given up LPG subsidies,” Pradhan said.
Consumers are currently entitled to 12 cylinders of 14.2 kg each or 34 bottles of 5 kg each in a year at subsidised rates. A subsidised 14.2 kg cylinder is currently available at Rs. 419.13 per bottle in Delhi while the 5 kg pack costs Rs. 155. In contrast, the market-price of LPG is Rs 509.50 per 14.2 kg cylinder.
The scheme provides a financial support of Rs. 1,600 for each LPG connection to the BPL households. The identification of eligible BPL families will be made in consultation with the State Governments and the Union Territories, he said.
Presently, LPG coverage in India is dominated in the urban and semi-urban areas while rural areas are still predominantly using fossil fuels for cooking. The serious health hazards associated with cooking based on fossil fuels can be gauged from the WHO estimates, as per which about 5 lakh deaths in India are caused alone due to unclean cooking fuels. An open fire in the kitchen is like burning 400 cigarettes an hour.
“Providing LPG connections to BPL households will ensure universal coverage of cooking gas in the country. This measure will empower women and protect their health. It will reduce drudgery and the time spent on cooking. It will also provide employment for rural youth in the supply chain of cooking gas,” Pradhan said.
Currently, Writing a Book for Penguin India Titled Greased Pole:How Politics and Lobbying Stifled India’s Energy Dreams. The author can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org (9810661825)
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