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Ujjwala Ensures Health, Savings & Opportunities for the Poor

The initiatives taken by the Modi government have resonated at a mass scale since each of the policy interventions are borne out of years of experience of the leadership on the ground.  For the first time, the poor feel taken care of by the government. 

There is little left to doubt in the manner in which Prime Minister Modi has caught the pulse of the common citizens. One such policy decision taken by the prime minister that has transformed the lives of the poorest of the poor, especially the women, is Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana.  On International Women’s Day 2019, the scheme touched 7 crore mark i.e. 7 crore households breathing smoke-free air. The new target was to reach 8 core households till 2020, from an earlier target of 5 crore. 

PMUY, which is aimed at providing LPG connections to the BPL households in India, has been a path-breaking initiative in more ways than one. The direct impact of the scheme has been on reducing the health hazards caused due to burning of solid fuels like wood, cow dung and charcoal.  According to a WHO report, the smoke inhaled by women using unclean fuel is equal to smoking 400 cigarettes in an hour. It also estimated that about 5 lakhs deaths occur in India due to the use of unclean cooking fuels. 

Therefore, one could only imagine the amount of suffering women of poor households would go through by cooking for their family and children. It is also to be noted that the young children too would get exposed to smoke and solid particles, having an adverse impact on their health and well-being.  

In terms of coverage, PMUY has proven to be doing exceptionally well. Here is a glimpse of its success:

  • It has currently covered 714 districts.
  • 42% of the free Ujjwala connections have gone to SC/ST households
  • Overall LPG coverage has risen from 55% in 2014 to 93% of the population till February 2019.
  • The state of U.P. has received the highest number of Ujjwala connections at over 1.26 crore connections. It is followed by West Bengal with more than 78 lakh and Bihar with 77 lakh Ujjwala connections.

In terms of refills, about 23 crore refills or about 4 cylinders of 14.2-kg each have been bought by the beneficiaries of the scheme in a year. This indicates that it is not a one-off incentive, but has led to a behavioural change at many levels.

Apart from health benefits, Ujjwala yojana has led to lower healthcare expenditure and more savings. Earlier, women would have to spend significant amount of time collecting firewood. With PMUY, women’s time is freed which could be diverted in pursuit of a gaining a skill, spending more time with the children, generation of additional income or even in leisure activities.

In terms of greater societal impact, increase in the LPG coverage and consumption is expected to generate employment of 1 lakh. Further, it has provided a window of opportunity for the ancillary businesses to rise with increase in demand for cylinders, regulators, gas stoves, hose and so on.  It is reflective of the enhanced economic activity triggered by Ujjwala revolution.

So, PMUY certainly has had wide-scale impact on health, savings, as well as increasing labour productivity. It has been instrumental in elevating overall quality of life and providing women from the poor households a much-needed breather from life filled with indoor pollution to a smoke-free life.

March 27, 2019