In a big boost to Prime Minister Narendra Modi government’s welfare initiatives, the flagship scheme Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana, a mission to providing free cooking gas connections to the poor, is likely to achieve its target of 8 crore household connections six months prior to the deadline, reports Hindustan Times.
According to the report, the Ujjawal scheme has reached 8 crore poor households six months before the deadline set to reach that target and the scheme is likely to be expanded to cover more underprivileged families ahead of key assembly elections later this year.
Ujjwala is among one of the flagship schemes of the Modi government which was widely seen to have contributed to the Bharatiya Janata Party’s return to power at the Centre with a bigger majority in 2019 elections.
“Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana is likely to achieve its target of 8 crores connections this month ahead of the March 2020 deadline. As on date August 26, more than 7,96,81,650 connections have been already provided under the scheme. In all likelihood, the scheme will soon be extended to cover more underprivileged households,” one of the officials said.
In February, the Union Cabinet had increased the target under the scheme from 5 crore connections to 8 crore household connections with a March 2020 deadline. It allocated an additional Rs. 4,800 crore to fund the enhanced target. However, the target has been achieved six months prior to the deadline.
In May 2016, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had launched the PMUY nine months before the last assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh in the state’s Ballia district. The scheme played an important role in BJP’s return to power in Uttar Pradesh after over a decade.
The Modi government had initially allocated Rs. 8,000 crore for the scheme and the target was to ensure 5 crore connections in three years starting from the 2016-17 financial year, officials said.
Reportedly, a petroleum and natural gas ministry spokesman confirmed the 8 crore target would be achieved in advance. “Government of India has reimbursed Rs. 10,675 crore to oil marketing companies under the scheme. The process of providing connections is underway and the target of 8 crore connections is likely to be reached soon by the OMCs,” he said.
Another official requesting anonymity said the government plans to set a new target after achieving the 80 million connections. “The idea is to provide free gas connections to every family under the below poverty line. An announcement to this effect would be based on the assessment of PMUY after the 8 crore target is met.”
The state-run OMCs have received more than 10 crore applications from prospective consumers under the scheme and hence there is a scope to extend the scheme after it achieves the current target. The eligible beneficiaries will now be chosen after a proper verification process to ensure that they do not already have connections in the names of their other family members.
According to the officials, the scheme has offered the poor clean cooking fuel option as about 86% of the beneficiaries, who have got the connections at least a year back, have bought second refills. Their average gas consumption is about 4.8 cylinders per annum, they said.
Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana aims to provide LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) connections to poor households. Under PMUY, a subsidy of Rs. 1,600 for a deposit-free LPG connection is provided to an eligible poor household, besides an interest-free loan to purchase a stove and refills. Eligible households will be identified in consultation with state governments and Union territories. The scheme is being implemented by the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas.
A connection is provided in the name of an adult woman member of a poor family and the beneficiary has an option to avail a connection with a 14.2kg or a 5kg cylinder. Eligible households will be identified in consultation with state governments and Union territories. For the first, the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas is implementing a welfare scheme.