By Subhash Narayan
New Delhi, July 16 (IANS) The next big goal of Modi 2.0 is to take its flagship ‘Ujjwala’ scheme to 80 million households within the first 100 days of the government.
The scheme, which provides free cooking gas connections to female members of below poverty line families, has been hugely successful ever since its launch on May 1, 2016 and has also aided the ruling formation in the just-concluded general election.
So far, Ujjwala connections have touched the 72-million mark. And, government officials said that taking it to 80 million would be worked upon on a war footing so that the original target of Ujjwala is reached in the next 100 days.
In addition, another 10-20 million new LPG connections would be given in subsequent months to cover all poor households as part of a Cabinet decision taken late last year.
With this, the access to cooking gas, or liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), to 100 per cent of the country’s households would be completed before the year-end. At present about 93-94 per cent of households have access to cooking gas.
The Modi government has identified 167 transformative ideas across various areas which have to be implemented in a time-bound manner. These ideas, if implemented, would bring visible change and make a meaningful difference in the life of ordinary citizens.
With this, the mission of providing clean fuel to all households in the country would be completed and the next phase would begin where focus would be to ensure that all new connections, particularly for poorer sections of the society, take an LPG refill.
Under the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY), gas connections are provided to BPL families with a support of Rs 1,600 for each connection. The LPG connection is provided in the name of the female member of the family.
Launched in May, 2016, the PMUY was initially aimed at providing clean cooking fuel to 50 million women from poor households classified as eligible over a period of three years.
A sum of Rs 8,000 crore was allocated for the scheme to start with. However, given the success of the scheme, the then Finance Minister Arun Jaitley announced in the 2018-19 Budget to allocate an additional Rs 4,800 crore and increased the target to 80 million households.
In December, the Union Cabinet also decided to cover all poor households under the scheme that would further increase the number of new connections by 1-2 crore.
The government is also toying with the idea of promoting the use of smaller five-kg LPG gas cylinders under PMUY so that refill rate increases. For this a separate subsidy plan has already been worked out under the existing direct benefit transfer (DBT) scheme.
The average LPG cylinder refill under Ujjwala is a pathetic three per annum while the national average stands close to seven refills in a year. The ministry of petroleum has studied that high cost of refills for a 14.2 kg cylinder is one of the main reasons why lower number of LPG cylinders were being used by BPL families.
With five-kg cylinders, refills can be had at one-third the price of a regular cylinder. This will make it easier for families to increase year-round use of gas connections given under Ujjwala.
(Subhash Narayan can be contacted at [email protected])