The Indian government has unveiled the third phase of its Ujjwala scheme. This initiative aims to provide free gas connections, along with a stove and a refill, to 7.5 million impoverished households for three years. The move extends the program’s total coverage to an impressive 103.5 million households.
Expanding Access to Clean Cooking Fuel
Under the latest phase of the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY), beneficiaries will receive a deposit-free gas connection, complete with a stove and their first 14.2kg cylinder, all at no cost. This extension is set to cost approximately ₹1,650 crore, with state-run oil marketing companies initially bearing the financial burden. The government will later reimburse these companies. Notably, the scheme has been expanded to include households previously ineligible for LPG connections, thus encompassing a broader spectrum of the population.
A Glimpse into the Ujjwala Journey
The Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY), often referred to as Ujjwala 1.0, was initially launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on May 1, 2016. The aim was to provide clean cooking fuel to around 80 million disadvantaged households throughout India. Remarkably, this target was met in September 2019.
Subsequently, PMUY Phase-2, or Ujjwala 2.0, was launched in August 2021 from Mahoba district, Uttar Pradesh, with an initial goal of offering 10 million additional connections. This target was achieved by January 2022, and the government further distributed 6 million more connections under Ujjwala 2.0 until December 2022.
Initiatives to Expand LPG Coverage
The success of the PMUY scheme can be attributed to various strategic initiatives:
1. PAHAL (Pratyaksh Hastantarit Labh)
Instead of providing LPG cylinders at subsidized prices, cylinders were sold at market prices, and applicable subsidies were directly transferred to individuals’ bank accounts electronically. This approach reduced “ghost” accounts and the illegal use of household cylinders for commercial purposes, ensuring that only the intended beneficiaries received the benefits.
2. GIVE IT UP
Rather than forcibly removing subsidies, people were encouraged to voluntarily surrender their subsidies. Through extensive promotion, millions of people willingly gave up the subsidies, which helped redirect the funds to those who genuinely needed assistance in acquiring LPG cylinders.
3. Covid-19 Response
During the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown in 2020, a free refill scheme under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana was implemented. Under this scheme, assistance of Rs. 9670.41 Crore was provided to PMUY beneficiaries in support of 14.17 Crore LPG refills. This initiative ensured that families had continued access to clean cooking fuel during challenging times.
4. Increasing Per Capita Consumption
The per capita consumption of PMUY beneficiaries, which was 3.01 in 2018-19, has increased to 3.71 in 2022-23. PMUY beneficiaries now take more than 35 Crore LPG refills a year (2022-23), indicating the sustained impact of the program on households.
Economic and Social Empowerment
The PMUY scheme has empowered women economically and socially. With easier access to Liquified Petroleum Gas (LPG), women are no longer burdened with the task of collecting firewood or other traditional fuels, which often required long and laborious journeys. This newfound convenience allows them to participate more actively in community life and take up other income-generating opportunities. By reducing the time spent on fuel collection and cooking, women can allocate more time to education, skill development, and community engagement.