Govt admits refilling LPG cylinders under Ujjwala a challenge, plans a new scheme

Ministry of New and Renewable Energy’s joint secretary says the Centre plans to launch a scheme on solar cookers after PMUY fails

By Kundan Pandey
Published: Thursday 04 April 2019
Photo: Srikant Chaudhary

The Centre may finally be coming to terms with the fact that it’s difficult for people to refill LPG cylinders given under Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY). And so, the government is planning to launch a scheme on solar cookers for the marginalised communities, said Gopal Krishan Gupta, joint secretary, Ministry of New and Renewable Energy.

While speaking at an event in New Delhi on April 3, 2019, he said the government has noticed refilling LPG cylinders given under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pet scheme has been an issue. “It has been realised that poor people are not able to refill the LPG cylinder given to them under the scheme. Thus, the Centre is planning to bring a new scheme for power cooking with solar,” said Gupta.

The PMUY was launched in May 2016 from Balia district in Uttar Pradesh with an objective to replace dirty cooking fuels with LPG cyclinders.

Initially, the government had targeted to provide LPG cylinders to 5 crore families by 2019. Touted as a success, the scheme’s target was increased to 8 crore by 2020. The government had already distributed 6 crore LPG cylinders till December 2018.

The government narrative pushes the scheme as a success story. But, there’s no way to find out if the beneficiaries are getting the real benefit.

The Centre keeps claiming that 80 per cent of beneficiaries have opted for refills. But there is no other way to verify this claim. Down To Earth travelled to five states in 2017 and found that majority of beneficiaries are not refilling their LPG cylinders.

Data regarding the beneficiaries and the refilling is not managed by Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, the nodal ministry for the scheme. Instead, oil marketing companies (OMCs) like Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited (HPCL), Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL) and Indian Oil, which are engaged in execution of the scheme, keep the data.

Even through RTI, it is quite tough to get the exact data from these OMCs. Down To Earth had filed an RTI query over this in January and is still awaiting a response.

Even government responses are quite strange regarding the refilling. In a written reply in Parliament on August 1, 2018, Union petroleum minister Dharmendra Pradhan said those 80 per cent beneficiaries under Ujjwala Yojna went for second refill. On the same day, when he replied to a question specific to Odisha, he admitted that only 26.83 per cent of beneficiaries have gone for refilling in 2016-17. The number further came down to 21.16 per cent for 2017-18.

Despite these facts, the government has not been admitting the scheme’s flaws. Gupta is the first government official to admit that there’s a problem with PMUY.

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