New Delhi: The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, chaired by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has approved Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana – scheme for providing free LPG connections to women from BPL households. Under the scheme, Rs 8000 crore has been earmarked for providing 5 crore LPG connections to BPL households. The scheme provides a financial support of Rs 1600 for each LPG connection to the BPL households. The identification of eligible BPL families will be made in consultation with the State governments and the Union Territories. This scheme would be implemented over three years, namely, the FY 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19.
This is the first time in the history of the country that the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas would implement a welfare scheme benefiting crores of women belonging to the poorest households.
In our country, the poor have limited access to cooking gas (LPG). The spread of LPG cylinders has been predominantly in the urban and semi-urban areas with the coverage mostly in middle class and affluent households. But there are serious health hazards associated with cooking based on fossil fuels. According to WHO estimates, about 5 lakh deaths in India alone due to unclean cooking fuels. Most of these premature deaths were due to non-communicable diseases such as heart disease, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lung cancer. Indoor air pollution is also responsible for a significant number of acute respiratory illnesses in young children. According to experts, having an open fire in the kitchen is like burning 400 cigarettes an hour.
Providing LPG connections to BPL households will ensure universal coverage of cooking gas in the country. This measure will empower women and protect their health. It will reduce drudgery and the time spent on cooking. It will also provide employment for rural youth in the supply chain of cooking gas.
In this direction, Finance Minister in budget speech on 29.2.2016 had announced a budgetary provision of Rs. 2000 crore for 2016-17 to provide deposit free LPG connections to 1.5 crore women belonging to the Below Poverty Line (BPL) families. Further, the budget announced that the scheme will be continued for two more years to cover 5 crore households.