New Delhi: In an attempt to boost domestic cooking gas consumption under the marque Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY), or Ujjwala scheme, state-owned oil marketing companies (OMCs) on Friday announced deferment of loan recovery up to six refills.
Under the Ujjwala scheme—a key welfare programme of the centre for poor women—many availing an equated monthly instalment (EMI) facility for meeting the cost of stove and first refills were paying market price for refills till the loan repayment was made.
This was resulting in some consumers becoming averse to such refills.
“As per the data available, about 70% of the PMUY customers have availed interest-free loan facility provided by OMCs towards financing LPG stove and/or first LPG cost. Under the scheme, OMCs are recovering the subsidy amount provided on subsequent refills from beneficiaries who have taken loan and adjusting the same towards the repayment of the loan," state-run Indian Oil Corp. Ltd said in a statement on Friday.
PMUY, launched in 2016, aims to safeguard the health of women and children by providing them with LPG, so that they are protected from smoke while cooking or from having to go into unsafe areas to collect firewood.
“Hence, 70% Ujjwala beneficiaries purchase refills at market price until their loan is paid back. Paying the market price for the initial few refills is an additional hurdle that was coming in the way of their shift towards cleaner fuel, resulting in periodic slips back to biomass," the statement added.
Under the scheme, the government aims to provide cooking gas to poor households and has covered 713 districts.
The scheme aims to replace cooking fuels, used mostly in rural India, with clean liquefied petroleum gas (LPG).
Ujjwala scheme provides financial support of Rs1,600 for each cooking gas connection to eligible households. The connections are given in the name of the women heads of the households.
“Keeping in line with the spirit of PMUY scheme and the country’s goal to achieving universal LPG penetration by 2022 , OMCs have announced today to defer recovery of loan amount from Ujjwala beneficiaries for next six refills starting from 1 April 2018," the statement said.
The importance of the LPG programme is evident from the fact that Union finance minister Arun Jaitley in his 2018-19 Union Budget expanded the scope of Ujjwala to 80 million women, from 50 million earlier. So far, over 35.11 million women have been given connections under the scheme.
“Amount transferred under various Direct Benefits Transfer schemes increased by 25 times since the Modi Govt took over. #PAHAL, the largest DBT scheme in the world run by @PetroleumMin is the largest contributor," oil and petroleum minister Dharmendra Pradhan tweeted on Friday.
The scheme has been gaining traction. Mint reported on 6 Match about increased use of cooking gas may shrink the incidence of tuberculosis (TB) in India, based on the statistics from the latest National Family Health Survey (NFHS-4) on TB prevalence. The NFHS-4 (2015-16) showed a great variation of TB prevalence in accordance with the type of cooking fuel used at home. TB was more common in homes using solid cooking fuels than using clean fuels.
With more people dieing of TB in India than any other country, India has been facing the problem of untimely deaths to unclean cooking fuels.
“Getting an LPG connection is a onetime decision; getting a refill is a decision that is to be made afresh every month or so taking into account several factors including any emergency expenditure that the family needs to prioritise. The first year of using LPG is crucial in a household’s journey from unclean to clean cooking fuel," the statement added.