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Context: The government has decided to extend the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY) scheme for three more years from 2023-24 to 2025-26. This will enable 75 lakh more households to get LPG connections under the scheme. The total number of PMUY beneficiaries will reach 10.35 crore by the end of the extension period.
- The Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY), commonly known as the Ujjwala Scheme, is a government initiative launched by the Government of India in May 2016.
- It was introduced to provide clean cooking fuel (LPG - Liquified Petroleum Gas) to women living below the poverty line (BPL) and in rural households across the country.
- The primary goal of the scheme is to improve the health and well-being of women by replacing traditional and unhealthy cooking methods, such as using firewood or cow dung, with clean and efficient LPG.
Key features of the Ujjwala Scheme
- Targeted Beneficiaries: Focusing on women from below the poverty line (BPL) households, especially in rural areas, ensures that the scheme reaches those who are most in need. Women in these households often bear the brunt of health issues caused by traditional cooking methods and can benefit the most from clean cooking fuel.
- Financial Assistance: Providing financial assistance to cover the initial cost of an LPG connection is essential in making the transition to clean cooking fuel financially viable for beneficiaries. It removes a significant barrier for those who may not have the upfront resources to invest in the necessary equipment.
- Economical Pricing: Subsidized LPG cylinders make it affordable for beneficiaries to purchase refills, ensuring that they continue to use clean cooking fuel in the long term. The Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) system ensures that subsidies are delivered directly to beneficiaries, reducing the risk of leakage and corruption.
- Safety Measures: Educating beneficiaries about the safe use of LPG is crucial in preventing accidents and health hazards. Safety instructions, training, and pamphlets play a vital role in ensuring that beneficiaries are aware of best practices for handling and using LPG.
- Loan Facility: Offering a loan facility to cover the cost of the stove and initial cylinder makes the scheme accessible to those who might not qualify for direct financial assistance but still need support. The option to repay the loan in instalments ensures affordability.
Significances of the Ujjwala Scheme
- The focus on reducing indoor air pollution and associated health issues is of paramount importance. In many households using traditional cooking methods, women and children are exposed to high levels of harmful smoke and pollutants. These pollutants can lead to respiratory diseases, eye problems, and other health issues.
- By promoting clean cooking fuel like LPG, the Ujjwala Scheme significantly improves the health and well-being of women and children, reducing the incidence of respiratory ailments and other health problems.
- Providing women with access to LPG not only benefits their health but also empowers them in several ways. It reduces their daily workload by eliminating the need to collect firewood or other biomass fuels, allowing them to reallocate their time to more productive activities, such as pursuing education, participating in income-generating activities, or engaging in community development.
- Empowered women contribute positively to their households and communities, enhancing overall socio-economic development.
- The transition from biomass-based cooking to LPG has environmental benefits as well. Traditional cooking methods often rely on wood, crop residues, or cow dung, leading to deforestation and land degradation.
- By using LPG, households reduce their reliance on biomass fuels, which helps combat environmental degradation, preserve forests, and mitigate the release of greenhouse gases. This has positive implications for both local and global environmental sustainability.
Challenges associated with the Ujjwala Scheme
- Coverage: While the Ujjwala Scheme has achieved widespread implementation, reaching all eligible beneficiaries, especially those in remote and underserved areas, remains a challenge. Geographical and infrastructural barriers can hinder access to LPG cylinders.
- Refill Rates: Encouraging beneficiaries to continue using LPG and regularly purchasing refills can be a persistent challenge. Financial constraints often deter households from buying refills at the market price, which can lead to a return to traditional cooking methods.
- Safety Concerns: Ensuring the safe use of LPG is crucial to prevent accidents and health hazards. Ongoing education and monitoring are required to address safety concerns. This includes not only providing safety instructions but also conducting regular safety checks and inspections to ensure that LPG connections and equipment are in good condition.
- Continuing efforts to expand the coverage of the Ujjwala Scheme is essential to reach remote and economically disadvantaged areas. This expansion should be accompanied by investments in infrastructure and logistics to overcome geographical barriers and ensure that clean cooking fuel is accessible to all eligible beneficiaries, regardless of their location.
Promote Refill Usage
- Encouraging beneficiaries to use LPG regularly and purchase refills is critical for the sustainability of the scheme. Strategies to promote refill usage could include providing subsidies or discounts for refills, creating incentives for timely refills, and offering convenient refill distribution points in rural and underserved areas.
- While LPG is a cleaner cooking fuel compared to traditional methods, promoting sustainable and energy-efficient cooking practices alongside LPG can further reduce environmental impact. This could involve educating beneficiaries about efficient cooking techniques and the use of energy-efficient stoves to maximize the benefits of clean cooking.
- Conducting regular awareness campaigns is crucial to ensure that beneficiaries are informed about the benefits and safe usage of LPG. These campaigns should not only focus on the health and environmental advantages but also emphasize the economic and time-saving benefits of using clean cooking fuel. Continuous education can reinforce positive behaviour and encourage the sustained use of LPG.
- The Ujjwala Scheme has made significant strides in improving the lives of millions of women in India by providing them with access to clean cooking fuel. Its success lies in its continued expansion, sustained subsidies, and ongoing safety and awareness efforts.
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Ujjwala Yojana: https://www.iasgyan.in/daily-current-affairs/ujjwala-scheme-21
Q. What is the Ujjwala Scheme, and what impact has it had on the lives of beneficiaries in India? Discuss its significance in addressing energy poverty and improving the socio-economic conditions of vulnerable populations. Identify the key challenges faced in the implementation of the scheme. Suggest potential ways forward to enhance the effectiveness and sustainability of the Ujjwala Scheme.