LPG sales have jumped by 9.8 per cent in the fiscal year ended March 31 after the government gave a record number of cooking gas connections, most of them to poor households. Public sector fuel retailers sold 18.9 million tonnes of packed domestic LPG — the fuel that is sold to consumers in cylinders — during 2016-17. “Packed LPG growth in 2015-16 was 7.1 per cent and in 2016-17 it was 9.8 per cent,” a senior oil ministry official said. The growth rate assumes significance considering that petroleum product sales have stagnated at 4-6 per cent. India consumed 5.2 per cent more petroleum products like petrol, diesel, LPG and jet fuel, in 2016-17 at 194.2 million tonnes.
“LPG is the highest grosser. As many as 111.3 crore cylinders were sold in 2016-17,” the official said. State-owned Indian Oil Corp (IOC), Bharat Petroleum Corp (BPCL) and Hindustan Petroleum Corp (HPCL) together have 23.71 crores LPG customers registered with them out of which 23.46 crore customers are domestic users. Of this only 19.88 crore are active users. The official said about 3.32 crore new domestic LPG connections were issued during 2016-17, including two crores under Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY). Under the PMUY, the government is giving free LPG connections to poor households with a view to weave them away from polluting fuel like firewood.
The PMUY has helped increase LPG coverage to 72.8 per cent of the population, up from around 50 per cent three years ago. The official said there may be few states where the LPG refill purchase has been below the national average of 4-5 cylinders a year but overall there has been a tremendous growth in LPG consumption. “Bihar recorded the highest growth at 22.7 per cent, followed by Chattisgarh at 17.6 per cent, Jharkhand at 16.7 per cent, West Bengal at 15.9 per cent and Uttar Pradesh with 15 per cent growth rate,” he said. States which do not have abundant alternate cooking fuel like forest wood, have shown greater ease in switching over to LPG usage.