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The National Democratic Alliance government’s flagship cooking gas scheme is likely to be linked to the rural housing scheme in order to provide wider coverage. An announcement on widening of the programme is likely to be made in Thursday’s Budget.
Officials said the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY) and the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY) might be linked, which would add 10 million beneficiaries of the rural housing scheme automatically. In addition to this, the mandate of the PMUY is set to be expanded from 50 million to 80 million with an additional budgetary support of Rs 48 billion. The Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe category, even if not below the poverty line, may also be included in the expanded programme.
“Providing additional allocation to the PMUY is expected to be a part of this Budget. The PMUY has invited global attention as it changed the lives of more than 30 million rural women,” said Debasish Mishra, partner, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu India. The beneficiaries of the PMAY (Gramin) are largely poor rural families without houses or which are living in houses with less than two rooms. The Narendra Modi government had identified 29.5 million such families under the socio-economic and caste census (SECCC) of 2011, of which 10 million are to be provided housing by March 2019 and the rest by 2022.
The PMUY, which was launched on May 1, 2016, in Ballia district in Uttar Pradesh with a target of providing 50 million gas connections in three years to families living below the poverty line, has already covered 33.41 million consumers in 712 districts. “The government has allocated Rs 80 billion as budgetary support through which each family is receiving Rs 1,600. This is set to be increased by another 30 million now,” said an executive with an oil marketing company (OMC).
PUMY connections are now being given in the names of women, but oil companies are likely to do away with this condition and provide connections to men as well.
Interestingly, this comes at a time when questions are being raised on the number of refills that BPL families are taking under the PMUY. “When a normal consumer is refilling at an average 7.76 times per year, the rate of refill in the PMUY is 3.8 times per year. The number of consumers who have not come back for a second cylinder is only 15%,” said Sanjiv Singh, chairman of Indian Oil Corporation (IOC).
According to data available with the government, nearly 80% of Ujjwala consumers come back to the OMCs for a second refill, while 45% take three or more refills in a year. In order to maintain regular connection with new consumers and to sensitise them about the benefits of using liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), OMCs like IOC, Hindustan Petroleum Corporation, and Bharat Petroleum Corporation had recently initiated a concept called LPG Panchayat in rural areas.
On the back of the successful launch of the PMUY during the last financial year, LPG consumption witnessed a rise of almost 10% to 21.5 million tonnes from 19.6 million tonnes during 2015-16. “We are expecting a similar increase this year,” Singh added.