New Delhi: President RamNath Kovind’s speech to the joint session of the Parliament had a special focus on his government’s marque schemes such as the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana aimed at providing free cooking gas connections and the Pradhan Mantri Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojana, or the Saubhagya scheme, aimed at household electrification.
Ujjwala is one of the Modi administration’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.
“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 the 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 by 2030 its carbon footprint by 33-35% 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.
The National Democratic Alliance also wants to showcase its success in providing round-the-clock power across the country in the run-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. With the government’s focus on providing “24x7 clean and affordable power to all" by March 2019, for which the states are on board, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is looking to reap political dividends out of these schemes.
“By providing electricity connection to every household, my government is illuminating the life of each person. In 2014, there were more than 18,000 villages which had no electricity connection. Today every village has been electrified. Under the ‘Pradhan Mantri Saubhagya Yojana’, 2 crore and 47 lakh homes have been provided electricity connections," Kovind said.
This comes against the backdrop of the the Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana (DDUGJY), which helped bring electricity to all of India’s 597,464 census villages on 28 April, setting the stage for universal household electrification.
Kovind also referred to the coal block auctions conducted by the NDA government that have been termed as a successful template for the allocation of natural resources in India.
“Prior to 2014, auction of coal mines used to be a subject of discussion due to lack of transparency. My government developed a transparent system for auction of coal mines and has protected this national resource," Kovind said.
The president in his address also referred to the government’s efforts on the ‘electric mobility front’ and India taking the lead in combating climate change with the International Solar Alliance.