Spotlight
PM Launches Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana
A year and two months back the Narendra Modi government had rolled out ‘GiveItUp’ initiative — well off cooking gas users voluntarily giving up their LPG subsidy — and now, the Prime Minister launched the Rs8,000-crore Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana scheme at Ballia. The PMUY, which is being partly funded from the savings of ‘GiveItUp’ initiative will provide five crore free LPG connections to Below Poverty Line (BPL) families in the next three financial years. Launching the scheme on a rather hot Sunday amidst a gathering of 50,000 to 100,000 people, Modi was quick to point out that the scheme in Ballia was not to be seen as part of the campaign for the state legislative Assembly elections to be held in 2017. “I selected Ballia because the average LPG penetration in BPL households is lower than even that in Uttar Pradesh. In Ballia, on an average only eight out of 100 BPL families have LPG connections,” said Modi.
Discounted connections
The scheme has been so proposed that BPL families do not have to pay Rs1,600 per connection for the administrative cost, pressure regulator booklet and safety hose. The connections would be given to the BPL households and the LPG subsidy amount for refills will be deposited in the Jan Dhan Accounts of the women members. In the 2016-17 fiscal, 1.5 crore BPL families will be provided the discounted connections. The government will identify the BPL families through the Socio-Economic Caste Census of 2011. Modi also criticised the slow pace of rolling out LPG connections by past governments. “In 60 years, a total of 13 crore households were given LPG connections. In one year alone, we gave LPG connections to three crore households.” The Prime Minister also touched upon the work done by his government for rural electrification in Uttar Pradesh. Modi said that within 250 days, 1,326 villages in Uttar Pradesh have seen supply of electricity starting through the construction of electricity poles and power lines. “Work in the remaining villages (213) is progressing and will be completed soon,” he said. With the launch being on Labour Day, Modi also reminded the public of the initiatives taken by the government for the labour force of the country. “We have brought about a change in the labour laws... 30 lakh labourers were provided with a monthly pension of over Rs 1,000... Bonus Act was amended to increase the minimum bonus to Rs7,500,” he said. Modi called for a tweaking of the Communist Manifesto rallying cry, ‘Workers of the world unite’. He said, “For the 21st century, the slogan should be Workers of the world, unite the world because it is only their hard work that can unite the world.” Consumers will have the option to purchase gas stove and refills on EMI.
Expansion plans
The Prime Minister said nearly 10,000 new distributorships and infrastructure expansion plans were in the works to cater to the increased demand arising out of the new connections. The households will be selected using the socio-economic and caste census data. Currently, India has 16.64 crore active LPG consumers with a requirement of about 21 million tonnes per annum. Stating that LPG coverage is being increased, he said there are serious health hazards associated with cooking based on fossil fuels. According to World Health Organisation estimates, about 5 lakh deaths occur in India alone due to unclean cooking fuels. Experts say having an open fire in the kitchen is like burning 400 cigarettes an hour. Providing LPG connections to BPL households will ensure universal coverage of cooking gas in the country and this will empower women and protect their health, he said.
Demand for LPG to double
India’s demand for LPG is expected to see a double-digit growth over the coming years, the government said in a release. Towards this, several steps have been taken to increase infrastructure in order to meet the demand. “The three public sector oil marketing companies have approved plans to expand rated LPG bottling capacity from the present over 15,000 thousand metric tonne per annum [TMTPA] by around 10 per cent by the end of FY 17-18, so as to meet the expected increase in LPG demand,” the release said. Several steps are being taken to expand import facilities as well. “While Indian Oil is developing new import facilities at Dahej [by 2018-19], Paradip and Cochin [by 2017-18], Bharat Petroleum is developing its import facility at Haldia, apart from which East India Petroleum Private Limited [EIPL] capacity augmentation is also getting completed by December 2016,” the release said, adding that the private sector was also working towards adding import infrastructure. Apart from those who voluntarily gave up their LPG connections, those earning Rs. 10 lakh or more a year have been deemed ineligible for the subsidy. The recently-released income tax data shows that there were 13.3 lakh individuals who declared an income above Rs. 10 lakh a year in assessment year 2012-13. Using that number, back-of-the-envelope calculations show removing the LPG subsidy from these people would save the government Rs. 173 crore a year.


Compiled By Meenakshi Bhattacharya

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