The Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana has been touted as one of the flagship schemes of the current government. Data suggests that close to 25% of the scheme beneficiaries have not come back to refill their cylinders.
Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana, abbreviated as PMUY, is a flagship scheme of the current government aimed at encouraging the use of clean cooking fuel (LPG) for domestic purpose concomitantly trying to safeguard the health of women and children, by preventing chest congestion related diseases.
Promoting the use of LPG as an alternative to firewood, cow dung and charcoal, the initiative has also been hailed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) for being a ‘decisive intervention to check the indoor health pollution being faced by the women of the country’. The scheme was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 01 May 2016, in Ballia, Uttar Pradesh. Under this scheme, deposit free gas connections are provided to women from families belonging to ‘Below Poverty Line’ category. Assistance of ₹ 1600 is provided to those taking up new LPG connections comprising security deposit of 14.2 Kg cylinder and domestic pressure regulator; suraksha hose; domestic gas consumer card and installation charges.
Since, its inception, the scheme has gained momentum and has met the targets set by the Government, from time to time. Initially, the scheme was formulated to benefit only certain groups as per the Socio Economic Caste Census exclusion criteria and was later expanded to include all belonging to the Below Poverty Line. Despite the increase in the number of connections, are the ‘beneficiaries’ refilling their cylinders? Let’s find out.
By 2020, target is to release gas connections to 80 million families
An annual target of 2 crore beneficiaries was set by the government for each of the three financial years from 2016-17 to 2018-19. During the same period, 7.18 crore connections were released i.e.,1.18 crore connections more than the target. The current target is 8 crore connections by 2020. The government has also stated that from 01 April 2014 to 01 June 2019, there has been a steady increase in the nationwide LPG coverage from 55.9% to 94.2%. Further, as per information provided by the government, 41% of the beneficiaries under PMUY are those belonging to the SC/ ST categories. The official scheme website shows that as on 05 August 2019, a total of 7.67 crore connections have been released under PMUY.
27.5% of the total connections in the country are through PMUY
As on 01 July 2019, as per data provided by the government in the Lok Sabha, out of a total of 26.43 crore LPG connections in India, 7.26 crore connections have been provided under PMUY. This constitutes 27.5% of the total LPG connections in India. The proportion of connections availed through the scheme and the total number of connections can be seen in the following chart. Only the states where there have been more than a million PMUY connections have been considered for the chart.
In the states of Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh, about 56.2% of the total gas connections have been released under PMUY. Even in Odisha, the same stands at around 53%. These are the only 3 states where the percentage of PMUY connections account for more than 50% of the total connections in the state. This is between 40% and 50% in four other states of Bihar, Meghalaya, Madhya Pradesh & Assam. The percentage for Uttar Pradesh stands at 35%. In 13 States/UTs, the proportion of PMUY connections out of the total LPG connections is less than 10%. In Delhi, Chandigarh, Daman and Diu and Goa, the percentage of connections under PMUY is less than 2% of the total connections.
75.4% of those who had opted for the scheme before 2019 opted to refill their cylinders
Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs) reported that about 86% of the beneficiaries of the scheme who availed the scheme more than a year back came back for refilling their cylinders. Until May 2019, 1.67 crore beneficiaries purchased refilled cylinders four times and 1.45 crore beneficiaries went on to purchase refilled cylinders five times.
On the other hand, data provided by the ministry on the PMUY scheme website suggests that 75.4% of those who benefitted under the scheme before 2019 went onto refill their cylinders at least once. The data further reveals that 11.7% of the beneficiaries refilled thrice and 45.8% of them refilled more than thrice. A total of 28.85 crore refills have been purchased by the beneficiaries by the end of 2018. In the following chart, state wise number of connections installed under PMUY (more than 10 Lakhs) and the number of people who have gone for refill in these states is plotted.
In every state, not everyone has refilled their cylinders. The percentage of refill (calculated as percentage of those who refilled at least once against the total number of connections under PMUY) is above 90% in Goa, Haryana, Delhi, Daman and Diu, Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Puducherry. In 15 States/UTs, the percentage of refill is between 80 to 90%. It can be noted that in states like Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Assam, Meghalaya, Jharkhand, Tripura and Chhattisgarh the refill percentage is below 60%. In other words, more than 40% of the beneficiaries in each of these states did not come back for refilling. The year wise refill data is not available and reasons for such low refill rate are also not known. However, one factor that might be the reason for such numbers is the presence of forests in these areas making it easier to collect firewood instead of spending large amount of money on refilling gas cylinders. In almost all these states, the forest cover is more than 30% as per 2017 data.
24.6% of the beneficiaries did not refill their cylinders at all
Meanwhile, 1.45 crore beneficiaries had not opted for refill till the date of compilation of data (end of 2018). Together, they constitute 24.6% of all the beneficiaries under this scheme till end of 2018. This has been justified by the OMCs saying that adoption to new cooking methods is a slow process since it involves behavioural change. Further, they added that there are other factors also that influence this habit like frequency of cooking a meal, food habits, price of LPG and ease of access to free alternative fuel such as cow dung, fuel wood, etc.
Provision to swap 14.2kg cylinder with 5kg cylinder and increasing awareness to encourage beneficiaries
The PMUY has been criticised for the inability of the scheme to address the expenses incurred by the beneficiaries in refilling the cylinder. This discourages them from using LPG and so, they resume the use of hazardous fuels. In order to tackle this, the government has announced that in addition to the 14.2 Kg cylinders, people will also be allowed to choose 5kg cylinders. This will reduce the amount to be paid for refill at one go and simultaneously make the transportation and distribution of cylinders simpler in tough terrains. Another criticism of the scheme is the lack of awareness among people. Few of them, unaware of the ₹ 1600 financial aid provided by the government, ended up paying the whole amount at one go and many others did not avail of the interest free loans provided for the amount to be paid by the beneficiary. The government has encouraged OMCs to take measures such as advertisement through hoardings, audio visual media, SMS and education to overcome these problems.
More than 10 million consumers have given up subsidised connections
Concomitantly, the government had started the ‘GiveItUp’ campaign which encouraged those who could afford to give up their LPG subsidy so that it could benefit rural women. As per government’s estimates, the total savings due to this, in the financial year 2018-19 has been ₹ 2,930 crores. More than one crore people had given up their subsidy as per the Ministry’s statement in the Lok Sabha as on 27 June 2019. The following chart shows the number of people who chose to give up subsidy in states that have the maximum number of PMUY beneficiaries.
Ministry data shows that a total of 1.03 crore individuals have given up subsidy since the commencement of the campaign. Maharashtra has the largest number of people giving up subsidies (16.5 lakh) followed by Uttar Pradesh (12.6 lakh). These two states alone comprise of 28.2% of those who gave up. However, it is also true that many of those who give up subsidy also switch back to availing subsidy. As of 01 April 2017, a total of 1.12 lakh people opted to switch back to subsidies. The latest numbers are not available.
Featured Image: PM Ujjwala Yojana Beneficiaries