Ninety lakh consumers under the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana were incapable of getting their Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) cylinders refilled in 2021-22, while 1.08 crore had managed to fill once more. In an RTI filed by a Neemuch-based activist Chandra Shekhar Guar, Indian Oil Corporation (IOCL) replied that among the connection released till March, 21.65 lakh people did not get their refills of cylinders done.
Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana Benefits
Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas (MOPNG), in May 2016, began the 'Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana' (PMUY) initiative as a principle scheme for women below the poverty line. Its objective was to encourage using clean cooking fuels like LPG and make them widely available to the rural and marginalised homes used to cooking with traditional older methods, such as burning firewood, coal, cow-dung cakes, etc. This policy would help reduce carbon emissions and footprints in villages and prevent long-term negative impacts on people's health. The scheme provided around 50 million LPG connections to women from poor households at the start itself.
Unaffordability As The Major Cause
Since the COVID-19 pandemic started in 2020, fuel prices fluctuated and kept rising with the disruptions of fuel imports, the demand-supply chain getting broken, leading to inflation. Thus, even after providing subsidies under Central schemes like Ujjwala Yojana, the LPG rates were too high for consumers to refill even once. In response to the RTI cited by the Times of India, Hindustan Petroleum Corporate Limited (HPCL) stated that almost 9.175 lakh did not refill their cylinders in 2021-22. Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL) added, "15.96% of scheme consumers have not bought any cylinder in the financial year 2021-22."
"The beneficiaries of the scheme book the refilled cylinders online, but when we go to their doorstep to deliver the cylinders, they don't take them, as they are unable to pay the price." commented a gas agency employee in Bhind district, as reported by The New Indian Express.
Alternatives To High Prices
2.76 lakh families have LPG gas domestic connections in the Bhind district of Madhya Pradesh, where around 1.33 lakh people use the Ujjwala Yojana. However, with being unable to refill or even buy LPG cylinders due to exorbitant prices, many of them have returned to the olden days of getting fuel from wood, cow dung, etc. It is even believed that some consumers might have sold the cylinders to earn money.
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