With more than 3 crore liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) connections issued within 18 months since the launch of the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY), the ministry of petroleum and natural gas is set to move a Cabinet note to increase the number of beneficiaries to be covered under the scheme. The ministry is expecting an additional grant of Rs 4,800 crore over and above the already budgeted Rs 8,000 crore to issue 3 crore additional connections on top of the 5 crore targeted earlier. “The work to extend the target to 8 crore is at an advanced stage. A Cabinet note is expected within a month,” said a government official close to the development, requesting anonymity. The initial target of the flagship scheme of the National Democratic Alliance government was to issue 5 crore connections to women belonging to the below-poverty-line category within three years of launching the scheme in May 2016.
However, given the target of 1.5 crore connections in the first year was well surpassed with 2.2 crore connections issued, the ministry was looking to write to the finance ministry for additional grant. The official added that since the scheme is being monitored closely and on average 35,000-40,000 connections are issued per day, it has been decided to move the initial target. Petroleum minister Dharmendra Pradhan, earlier in the year, had said oil marketing companies (OMCs) will be spending around Rs 30,000 crore in the next few years to upgrade India’s LPG infrastructure. Pradhan had also said though the petroleum ministry plans to increase the target under PMUY, a decision will be taken only after consulting the finance ministry.
An addition of 3 crore beneficiaries would translate to a requirement of around 3 mt of LPG annually, assuming each household consumes 100 kg of the cooking fuel every year. In the last financial year, the domestic production of LPG stood at 11.25 mt and imports were to the tune of 11 mt. According to data till October 23, 2017, the three OMCs — Indian Oil Corporation, Bharat Petroleum Corporation and Hindustan Petroleum Corporation — have issued a total of 3,03,18,520 LPG connections under PMUY, of which 1,33,60,125, or 44%, have gone to beneficiaries belonging to the scheduled caste and scheduled tribe categories.
Meanwhile, the plan to launch Ujjawal Plus has been delayed which was expected to be launched earlier this year. The scheme is to provide LPG connections to those certified below-poverty-line families which were left out in the Socio-Economic Caste Census 2011, and are not eligible to benefit from PMUY. Voluntary donations made by individuals and institutions to a joint account floated by the three OMCs will be used to fund the Ujjwala Plus scheme. The account has already received around `8 lakh in donations. “We are waiting for an appropriate time to launch the scheme,” said the official but did not provide a timeline.