About 85% Ujjwala Beneficiaries In 4 Northern States Still Use Solid Fuel, Says Study
While this election season, BJP is claiming Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY) as one of the party’s major successes in the last five years, a recent study found that most of rural India still relies on Chulhas or solid fuels for cooking purposes, reported The Hindu. These means of cooking are detrimental to the environment and health of those exposed to indoor smoke.
What did the study find?
The survey was conducted in late 2018 and it covered a random sample of 1,550 households in 11 districts of the four states. The population in these states makes up two-fifths of the country’s rural population.
A new study from the Research Institute for Compassionate Economics (r.i.c.e) shows that a total of 85% Ujjwala beneficiaries in rural Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan continue to rely on solid fuels for cooking. This can be attributed to financial reasons as well as gender inequalities. Using such conventional means of cooking contributes to indoor air pollution which leads to infant deaths and harms child development. Among adults, especially to women, it can contribute to heart and lung diseases.
The flagship scheme was launched in 2016 and aims to subsidise LPG connections for rural households by providing a free gas cylinder, regulator and pipe. The scheme provides financial support of Rs 1,600 for each LPG connection to the BPL households. Government data shows that as a result of the scheme over six crore households have received a free gas connection. The r.i.c.e study also shows that the four surveyed states have also seen a substantial rise in the number of households with LPG connections. A total of 76% of the households now have a gas connection in these states. While the number of free LPG connections extended to BPL families are on track but the grave question right now is whether new connections under PMUY are translating into consistent use given that the cost for the subsequent cylinders has to be borne by the BPL family itself?
A whopping 98% of these gas-owning households own a Chulha. Surveyors found that only 27% of the respondents exclusively used a gas oven for cooking the previous night while 37% responded used both stove and Chulha. 36% of the respondents said that they have cooked every meal using a Chulha. The report said, “Ujjwala beneficiaries are poorer, on average than households who got LPG on their own. Refilling the cylinder is a greater fraction of their monthly consumption, and they may be less likely to get a refill immediately after a cylinder becomes empty.”
Moreover, the survey revealed the gaping gender inequalities plaguing rural India. Almost 70% of households do not spend anything on solid fuels. It is more likely for women to make cow dung cake while men cut wood. The study suggests that women who provide free labour for solid fuels are not the economic decision makers of households. This provides a hindrance to shifting to LPG usage. While respondents felt that it was easier to cook on a gas stove, they were of the opinion that food cooked on Chulhas are tastier.