NEW DELHI: The number of households that have voluntarily given up their LPG subsidy crossed one crore on Thursday, firing a shot in the arm of Ujjwala — Narendra Modi government’s scheme to provide gas connections free of cost to women from five crore BPL (below poverty line) families in the next three years.
The number of households surrendering subsidy represents over 6% of the total registered LPG consumer base and comes within a year of PM Modi’s appeal.
PM Modi had launched the ‘Give It Up’ campaign on March 27, 2015. While inaugurating ‘Urja Sangam’, a global energy meet, he appealed economically well-off people to voluntarily surrender subsidy and promised to give back LPG connections to poor households.
Till late Thursday afternoon, the government’s website for Pahal – the scheme for cash transfer of cooking gas subsidy – said 1,00,06,303 households had voluntarily given up subsidy. But the number was changed to 99,06,410 later in the evening. Oil minister Dharmendra Pradhan is expected to announce the milestone number on Friday.
A subsidised cyclinder costs Rs 419.13 in Delhi, while a non-subsidised refill for domestic use costs Rs 509.50. Consumers are currently entitled to 12 cylinders of 14.2 kg each in a year at subsidised rates.
The government intends to provide gas connections to 1.5 crore BPL households free of cost in this financial year. The number of surrendered subsidy covers two-thirds of this target and would make government’s task easier.
The Ujjwala scheme was announced in the Union Budget, which earmarked Rs 2,000 crore for rolling out 1.5 crore BPL connections in this fiscal. Subsequently, the Cabinet on March 10 decided to expand the scope to five crore BPL connections in the next three years and earmarked a total of Rs 8,000 crore.
The Ujjwala scheme will no doubt help improve women’s health – especially in rural areas – and environment. But it is also expected to yield rich political dividend for parties, making LPG the new vehicle for political outreach. WHO has blamed toxic fumes from unhealthy cooking fuels such as kerosene, firewood and cowdung cakes for causing five lakh deaths every year in India. According to experts, having an open fire in the kitchen is like burning 400 cigarettes an hour.