New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday highlighted the success of one of his pet schemes, the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana, which aims to provide free cooking gas connections to poor families.

While interacting with the beneficiaries from Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Jammu and Kashmir, Tamil Nadu and Assam, through video-conferencing, Modi said the scheme has not only made women self-reliant, but has also triggered their social transformation and upliftment.

He also urged the people to avail the benefits of other flagship schemes such as Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana and Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojana, and went on to explain how these schemes would benefit people from across India, without discriminating on the basis of caste, class, religion or region.

Ujjwala Yojana has strengthened the lives of the poor, marginalized, Dalits and tribal communities, Modi said.

Modi also referred to the Gram Swaraj Abhiyan, which was organised across 21,058 villages, to spread awareness about the pro-poor initiatives by the government under seven programmes. The campaign was organized between 14 April and 5 May on the occasion of Ambedkar Jayanti.

The Prime Minister’s pitch to woo people from all communities comes in the backdrop of the protests by Dalits against the alleged dilution of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.

As part of Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party’s efforts to increase its social base and reap political dividends out of the success stories before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP leadership has also asked its public representatives to explain the benefits under the Ujjwala Yojana and Mudra Yojana, especially to the Dalit and other socially backward communities.

Drawing comparisons of his government’s performance vis-a-vis the earlier governments, Modi said that though liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) gas cylinders came to India soon after Independence (in 1955), only 130 million families had cooking gas connections in 2014. In the last four years, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government has given 100 million LPG connections.

Modi said that Ujjwala has been a source of constant progress and the biggest effort to take clean energy to every kitchen.

The programme, launched on 1 May 2016, aims to safeguard the health of women and children. While the clean fuel protects them from the hazards of inhaling smoke, it also helps the poor avoid going to unsafe areas to collect firewood.

During his interaction with the beneficiaries from Anantnag, Modi recounted his own childhood to say how he had seen the difficulties faced by Muslim women during Ramzan, as they have to wake up early to cook food for the family before fasting begins.

The Ujjwala scheme provides financial support of Rs1,600 for each cooking gas connection to poor households.

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