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Ujjwala scheme: Families feel LPG refill pinch, go back to cooking with wood

When beneficiaries of 12 welfare schemes interact with PM Narendra Modi in Jaipur on Saturday, probably such families will not be in the crowd

jaipur Updated: Jul 06, 2018 21:21 IST
Jaykishan Sharma
Jaykishan Sharma
Hindustan Times, Jaipur
Despite getting an LPG connection under Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana in June 2016, Hansa, at Sitarampura village in Jaipur, is back to stoking the fire in her earthen stove for cooking as she could afford only one refill in two years. (Himanshu Vyas/HT Photos)

Hansa Devi, 60, of Sitarampura village in Rajasthan’s Tonk district was happy when she got a cooking gas connection under the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana in June 2016. She was till then using firewood to cook food.

Two months later when the cylinder ran out of LPG, she realised she needed to pay Rs 750 for a refill. This, she said, is impossible for her, as the only source of income of her family of six is her son, Chona Ram, 30, who works as an agriculture labourer and earns around Rs 4-5,000 a month.

Devi has gone back to cooking with firewood.

Same is the story of Gayatri Sharma, 45, of Soda Bawri village. She’s a widow and depends on her 17-year-old son, Ram Prasad, to earn for the family. She got an LPG connection in November 2016, but has gone back to using earthen chulha.

Gayatri Devi, in Bawdi village , Tonk, shows her Ujjwala Yojana consumer diary, which shows she got the connection in 2016 but could afford only two refills in 26 months. (Himanshu Vyas/HT Photo)

“My mother has breathing problem because of the smoke she inhales in the kitchen every day, but we have no alternative to using firewood – we cannot afford a refill,” the son said, adding that he earns Rs 4,000 a month.

At Nayagaon village of Jaipur’s Phagi tehsil, Munni Devi, 60, does get the cylinder refilled but sparingly. Sitting next to a heap of wooden twigs and dung cakes near the LPG stove, she said the stove is used only for quick snacks or for tea for guests; for daily cooking, the earthen chulha is used. The family got three refills in 20 months.

These are some of the families that benefited from the Ujjwala scheme but didn’t get rid of the traditional methods of cooking because of the cost of LPG cylinders. In most houses in villages in Jaipur and Tonk districts that HT visited, firewood was found next to the cylinders. Families said when they got gas connection, they were happy that their days of suffocating themselves in the kitchen will get over – far from it.

On Saturday, when beneficiaries of 12 welfare schemes of central and state governments are brought to Jaipur to interact with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, probably such families will not be in the crowd. The government wants people who speak good about the schemes and not those who pick faults with them.

Despite having an LPG connection , Rampyari Devi brings firewood from nearby fields for cooking, as she cannot afford regular refills. (Himanshu Vyas/HT Photo)

Meanwhile, Rampyari Devi, 45, of Shriramganj village of Jaipur will continue to walk more than two kilometres every three days to collect firewood to keep the fire in her kitchen burning.

“We have been suffocating for years and Ujjwala scheme did not change anything,” she said.

State’s minister for civil supplies Babulal Verma said, “The government has helped the poor by giving them free cylinders. The refill cost is a regular expenditure. For the first time, the government has reduced the cost of fuel refilling. For now, in my opinion, there is no alternative for refilling expenditure.”

34 lakh Ujjwala connections in state

The scheme was launched by Prime Minister Modi on 1 May 2016 in Balia, Uttar Pradesh with an aim to replace unclean cooking fuels used in rural India with the clean and more efficient liquefied petroleum gas (LPG). Ujjwala intends to help reduce women’s chances of contracting respiratory diseases caused by exposure to hazardous fumes.

Till July 6 this year, 34,04,791 Ujjwala connections have been released in the state. (Himanshu Vyas/HT Photo)

The connections are released to women from below poverty line (BPL) households, or those whose monthly family expenditure is less than Rs 4,860 in rural areas and Rs 7,035 in urban areas with the support of Rs 1600 per connection.

Till July 6 this year, 34,04,791 Ujjwala connections have been released in the state. After Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan is at the fourth spot with the highest number of Ujjwala connections.

First Published: Jul 06, 2018 21:20 IST