Just ahead of the Ujjwala Divas, which is celebrated on April 20, a big spurt has been reported in the number of applications for partially-free liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) connections under the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY). While the average number of PMUY applicants till April 1, 2018 was 30,000-40,000 per day, it has since swelled to 1 lakh per day. For instance, as many as 1.27 lakh PMUY applications were received on April 10 and 1.55 lakh on April 13, according to official data. The sudden proliferation in PMUY applications can be attributed to the fact that the scheme has been extended to various other sections of the population on April 1, 2018. Earlier, it was restricted to BPL households.
Launched in May 2016, the PMUY was initially aimed at providing clean cooking fuel to 5 crore women from households classified as BPL under the Socio Economic Caste Census 2011 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 under which 3.57 crore LPG connections have already been released, finance minister Arun Jaitley announced in the latest Budget to allocate an additional Rs 4,800 crore and increased the target to 8 crore beneficiaries. The revised target is expected to be achieved by 2020.
To cover a wider spectrum of households, the scheme has been opened to all Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe households, beneficiaries of the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana and Antyodaya Anna Yojana, forest dwellers, “most backward classes,” tea garden and ex-tea garden tribes, and people residing in islands or river islands. Ujjwala Divas is part of the government’s rural outreach programme, called the Gram Swaraj Abhiyaan (GSA). Under GSA, the government is targeting 100% implementation of its seven flagship schemes – Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana, Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana, Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojana, Pradhan Mantri Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojana, Unnat Jyoti by Affordable LEDs for All, Mission Indradhanush and PMUY.
The GSA is being observed across 17,000 villages over a period of 21 days starting April 14, 2018 and the Centre has assigned one director, deputy director or under-secretary-level officer to every village to co-ordinate the programme. Karnataka and West Bengal have been kept out of the GSA purview due to the code of conduct which is in vogue for Assembly and panchayat elections, respectively. Once elections are over, another 4,000 villages will be added under the GSA programme. As per government data, LPG coverage in the country has increased to 80%, compared with around 62% before the launch of the PMUY. The average yearly refill rate by households which have completed one year from the date of release of the connection is around 4.32 cylinders, compared with the national average of 7.5 cylinders. The dropout rate (household that have never got LPG cylinders obtained under PMUY refilled) is around 20%.
Among states, while Gujarat, Bihar and Uttarakhand are among the top with more than 4 cylinder refills a year, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh have witnessed less than three refills a year. The government bears a burden of Rs 1,600 per connection and almost an equal amount is borne by beneficiaries who either pay upfront or take a loan from the oil marketing companies, the programme executors. The loan is repaid by beneficiaries by letting go of the subsidy with each refill. However, to push the refill rate, OMCs earlier this year announced that they will defer loan recovery by six months for every existing as well as new beneficiaries.