Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY) under the ministry of petroleum & natural gas on May 1, 2016, from Uttar Pradesh’s Ballia district. The Rs 8,000 crore scheme aims to provide LPG connections free of cost to 5 crore below poverty line (BPL) households, as recognised under the Socio-Economic Caste Census-2011 data, by 2019. For 2016-17, the target was set at 1.5 crore households, which the ministry achieved in just nine months, and it has been able to cover 2 crore households by the end of calendar year 2016.
The rapid progress of the PMUY has raised the percentage of Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe households with LPG connections to 37% of the total LPG coverage in the country. The same has risen to 13% for minorities. Priority is given to states where LPG penetration is below the national average, such as Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
Ujjwala independently addresses women, mainly from the economically weaker sections, as it must contribute towards making the lives of women and children easier and healthier, so that they don’t spend time collecting firewood and other unhealthy items.
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An oil ministry statement said that, in FY17, the three fuel retailers—Indian Oil, Bharat Petroleum and Hindustan Petroleum—issued a total of 3.75 crore new LPG connections, the highest number given in any year, including connections under the PMUY scheme. As a result, the LPG coverage in the country jumped to 72.8%, with 19.88 crore active consumers, as on April 1, 2017. Apart from the successes, there are multiple challenges too, such as inadequacy of authenticated data on BPL population and identification of poor households, in transferring subsidies as it may involve leakages.
To realise the true benefits of this ambitious scheme, the government must build a proper mechanism to identify the deserving beneficiaries, strengthen distribution channels, and ensure the supply of LPG and cylinders as planned.