Enthused by achievements in the first year of the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY), the ministry of petroleum and natural gas has written to the finance ministry to sanction an additional Rs 4,800 crore for the scheme. The fund will be utilised to provide free liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) connections to 3 crore additional beneficiaries over and above the initial target of 5 crore set in May 2016 when PMUY was launched. The scheme provides free LPG connections to women belonging to the below-poverty-line category and 2.2 crore beneficiaries received connections in the first year of the scheme compared with a target of 1.5 crore. Though the target of 5 crore beneficiaries was set for three years, the revised target of 8 crore beneficiaries will be for four years, according to a person close to the development who did not want to be named.
The government has already allocated Rs 8,000 crore for the scheme which was launched in Balia, Uttar Pradesh, last year. “As the target is reached, the ministry feels the need to add more beneficiaries,” said the person. Overall, 6 crore new LPG connections have been provided by the oil marketing companies (OMCs) in the last three years since the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government came into power, taking the coverage of clean cooking fuel in the country to around 72% from 50% earlier.
The ministry is, however, also anticipating an enhanced requirement of LPG as the number of users goes up and expects the country to become a net importer of the clean fuel by the end of the current financial 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. But the domestic production is not sufficient to meet the 10% growth in demand year-on-year, said the person quoted above.
An additional 3 crore beneficiaries would mean a requirement of around 3 MT of LPG assuming each household consumes 100 kg of the cooking fuel every year. The refilling rate of the current beneficiaries under PMUY is around 85%. Petroleum minister Dharmendra Pradhan had earlier said the government expects OMCs to spend around Rs 30,000 crore in the next few years to enhance the LPG infrastructure in the country. Pradhan had then said though his ministry plans to increase the target under PMUY, a decision will be taken only after consulting the finance ministry.