Mumbai: “Provided 38 million LPG connections to poor women,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi claimed on May 25, 2018, as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) completed four years at the Centre.
The claim is true as 39.8 million new liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) connections have been released in two years under the Ujjwala Yojana as on May 21, 2018, according to official data.
The BJP released a series of infographics on the achievements of the government across various schemes on May 25, 2018. Providing LPG connections to poor women under the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY) was one of the schemes touted as a success.
“If Hamid can do it for his grandmother, why can’t a prime minister do it?” Modi said on May 28, 2018, referring to a fictional character in a 1933 story by Munshi Premchand, a Hindi writer. In the story, Idgah, the protagonist Hamid buys a pair of tongs for his mother so her hands don’t get burned while cooking.
Modi was addressing beneficiaries of the Ujjwala scheme through video, the Times of India reported on May 29, 2018.
I will never forget one of Premchand's stories, Idgah.
The story is about young Hamid, who does not buy sweets or gifts during Id but buys a 'Chimta' so that his grandmother does not burn her hands while cooking. This story is extremely emotional: PM @narendramodi
— PMO India (@PMOIndia) May 28, 2018
The Ujjwala scheme was launched on May 1, 2016, to provide 50 million LPG connections to women from below poverty line (BPL) households, or those whose monthly family expenditure is lesser than Rs 4,860 in rural areas and Rs 7,035 in urban areas. About 80% of the 50 million target connections have been released, as on May 21, 2018, according to official data.
So, 5% more LPG connections were released on May 21, 2018, than claimed on May 25, 2018.
As on April 1, 2016, over 166 million households had LPG connections across the country. Over 19.8 million LPG connections were released between March 31, 2017, and May 21, 2018.
Source: Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana; Figures as of May 21, 2018
Uttar Pradesh–India’s most populous state–reported the most (7.3 million or 18% of all connections), followed by West Bengal (5.3 million) and Bihar (5.2 million).
The government has now raised the target to 80 million from 50 million, and plans to reach 50 million households by December 2018 and 80 million households by 2019-20.
The Ujjwala Yojana is being expanded to add scheduled caste/scheduled tribe households and beneficiaries of other government schemes, according to the petroleum ministry reply to the Parliamentary Standing Committee which presented its report on March 13, 2018.
Low refills, high prices and safety concerns
While connections increased 6 percentage points between 2015-16 and 2016-17, LPG consumption increased only marginally (0.8 percentage points) during the same period, Mint reported on June 28, 2017.
Only a few Ujjwala beneficiaries are refilling cylinders, Scroll.in reported on June 11, 2017, citing response from gas agency dealers. BPL families find a refill too expensive after their first connection, the report said.
Connection data are available only at the state level and not at the district level, which makes it difficult to track the progress of the scheme, The Economic & Political Weekly (EPW) reported on May 19, 2018.
The report also pointed out issues related with “connection-focussed approach” about consumers who are registered but are inactive.
“As of April 2016, when PMUY was launched, there were 3.55 crore “inactive” connections in the country. This had increased to 3.58 crore by April 2017 and 3.82 crore by January 2018.”
Safety has been another concern about distribution of LPG connection, especially to BPL families. Lack of awareness and safety amenities in beneficiary households have increased the likelihood of accidents, the EPW report said.
(Mallapur is an analyst with IndiaSpend and FactChecker.)
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