New Delhi: Finance minister Piyush Goyal on Friday hailed the government’s Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana, aimed at providing free cooking gas connections. Ujjwala is one of the government's flagship pro-poor schemes and is considered the equivalent of the previous Congress-led UPA regime’s rural jobs scheme. The plan is to provide free cooking gas connections to 80 million poor families under the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana.

While elaborating on the success of the scheme, Goyal said that it ensures that the women of the house do not have tears in their eyes while cooking for the household. He added that of the 80 million target, 60 million connections have already been provided, and the entire target will be met next year.

In the run-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the Narendra Modi-led government has been highlighting the success of the Ujjwala scheme. Launched from Ballia in UP — the state that sends the largest number of MPs to Parliament — the 12,800-crore scheme is increasingly been leveraged by the Prime Minister to amplify the political messaging.

With vice-president M. Venkaiah Naidu handing over the sixth crore connections at the Constitution Club in the national capital recently, the political leitmotif of the scheme is said to have contributed to the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) victory in the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections.

The optics around the scheme has been consistent. In August last year, Lok Aabha speaker Sumitra Mahajan handed over the fifth crore LPG connection in Parliament.

"Ujjawala is a remarkable success story of our government," Goyal said.

The scheme also found mention in President Ram Nath Kovind's speech to the joint session of the Parliament on Thursday.

“Many of our mothers, sisters and daughters used to suffer from various illnesses because of smoke-filled kitchens, which also affected the health of the entire family; and much of their effort and time were spent in collecting firewood. My government has provided more than 6 crore cooking gas connections to such sisters and daughters under the Ujjwala Yojana. Even after decades of efforts, there were only 12 crore gas connections in the country in 2014. In a short period of last four and a half years, 13 crore families have been provided gas connections," Kovind said.

Around 13 crore connections have been given during the NDA’s term, leading to 90% of the country being brought under liquified petroleum gas (LPG) connection coverage. This assumes significance in a country that is now the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases after the US and China. India plans to reduce its carbon footprint by 33-35% by 2030 from its 2005 levels, as part of its commitments to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change adopted by 195 countries in Paris in 2015.

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