Focus on LPG adoption: PMUY coverage a success-story, but low refills a dampener

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August 13, 2021 6:00 AM

Ujjwala 2.0 targets one crore new LPG connections for eligible beneficiaries—women from BPL, SC/ST, AAY, MBC, tea-garden worker, forest-dwelling, island-dwelling households—while a special focus is migrant workers.

Thus, the transition to LPG, sans larger cost-support targeted at beneficiary households, has mean that adoption has lagged coverage.Thus, the transition to LPG, sans larger cost-support targeted at beneficiary households, has mean that adoption has lagged coverage.

Over eight crore beneficiaries were enrolled under Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY) 1.0 but expanded coverage, under Ujjwala 2.0, faces a serious challenge of sustained usage. Former petroleum minister Dharmendra Pradhan had told the Lok Sabha in September last year the average annual consumption of cylinders (14.2 kg) by PMUY households stood at 3.01—bear in mind, this is likely based on data from oil-marketing companies, and thus doesn’t give the full consumer-side picture; indeed, there could be a great many households that post an average consumption that is significantly less.

Contrast this with the fact that the average usage among non-PMUY households, as per an analysis of CAG data, stood at close to 7 in 2018-19. And, as per a 2018 study by Abhisek Jain of CEEW and others, non-PMUY users reported an increasing trend of LPG cylinder-consumption over the years following the first year of adoption. The same study had listed high price of LPG—likely to have been exacerbated by the hike in oil prices—and easy availability of free biomass as top reasons given by households that didn’t use LPG for all cooking needs. Thus, the transition to LPG, sans larger cost-support targeted at beneficiary households, has mean that adoption has lagged coverage.

Preliminary data from the latest round of the National Family Health Survey, released in December last year, suggest as much—despite the large coverage increase, usage of clean cooking fuel has jumped just 20% between 2015-16 and 2019-20 in the 22 states surveyed. This is nothing to sneeze at, but a lot more needs to be done if the programme is to achieve meaningful success. Apart from costs of LPG, the problem is also hurdles to implementation of the LPG subsidy, as illustrated by the fate of the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana’s provision of three free cylinders to PMUY households in April-June 2020. Government data shows that only 50% of the targeted free cylinders were distributed in the period—causing the government to push the end-date for the scheme to September. It is, of course, possible that households didn’t feel the requirement over such a short period, but if uptake lagged advances credited by the government into beneficiary accounts even with the longer deadline, the government must get a better sense of what is going wrong on the ground.

Ujjwala 2.0 targets one crore new LPG connections for eligible beneficiaries—women from BPL, SC/ST, AAY, MBC, tea-garden worker, forest-dwelling, island-dwelling households—while a special focus is migrant workers. The scheme makes it easier for migrants to get a connection, with minimal paperwork needed and self-declarations sufficing. While Ujjwala 1.0, launched in 2016, merely gave a deposit-free LPG connection to beneficiaries, 2.0 promises one free refill and a free gas-stove in addition. The benefits of the scheme, on paper, are significant, from lower carbon emissions to lowering of women’s work-burden. But, while the government maintains that there are close to 29 crore LPG connections in the country, the International Energy Agency pegs the population reliant on solid biomass (largely for cooking) at 660 million. This gap needs to be eliminated, and, for that to happen, the government must map the deficiencies of PMUY.

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