The Odisha government has blamed high cost of cooking gas behind the tepid response of Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY) in the state, a charge refuted by the Centre.
PMUY is the flagship scheme of the Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas for providing LPG connections to women from Below Poverty Line (BPL) households.
The state government claimed that the scheme has "failed completely" in Odisha due to high price of the cooking gas.
"In Odisha, more than 90 per cent households have highlighted high cost of LPG (Liquefied Petroleum Gas) refilling as a major barrier for shifting towards LPG. If the barrier of high recurring cost of refill of LPG is not addressed immediately, the basic objective of the scheme will be defeated, Odisha's food supply and consumer welfare minister S N Patro wrote to Union Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan.
Alleging that the implementation of the PMUY has failed, Patro said: "Since the launch in May 2016, the scheme has covered as many as 35,16,384 households but only 8,18,786 beneficiaries have taken second refill in 2016-17, which further dropped to 6,45,265 (18.3 per cent of total coverage) for 2017-18 (till July 24, 2018).
He said the poor rate of refilling is a clear indication of shifting back to biomass for cooking purposes by the beneficiaries covered under the scheme.
The Odisha minister asked Pradhan to increase the amount of subsidy being given for refilling the LPG.
Patro said the assessment report of CRISIL on household cooking fuel usage and willingness to convert to LPG which covered 12 states across the country including Odisha had mentioned that high initial cost of connection and high recurring cost of LPG refill are the major barriers preventing the large scale adoption of LPG connectivity.
Union Minister Pradhan, in his reply to Patro said, "The letter, based on a news report, is factually incorrect, absolutely unsubstantial, devoid of facts and completely misleading."
Pradhan also accused the Odisha government of carrying out false political campaign against the Ujjwala scheme and said that it shows the ruling partys apprehension about the rising popularity of the welfare scheme among the poor in the state.
Claiming that the PMUY has been immensely useful for the poor women in Odisha, Pradhan said that 41 lakh LPG connections have been provided to poor households till December 12, 2018. Out of this, 35.22 lakh connections have been given under PMUY.
He said the number of LPG connection in Odisha is now 72.5 lakh against only 19 lakh in 2014. LPG coverage in Odisha has expanded from 22 per cent in 2014 to 69 per cent in 2018, Pradhan said.
Pradhan said the Centre is bearing the subsidy on LPG refills to protect the consumers from price volatility. In Odisha, the subsidy per cylinder is Rs 326.22 which fully protects the consumers fron any price increase.
Sismissing Odisha government's claim that beneficiaries are not going for refills, Pradhan said: "In Odisha, nearly 70 per cent households come back for refill and nearly 4.2 lakh consumers have taken 4 or more refills."
"This clearly indicates a marked behavioural change among the common man in Odisha to make a transition towards clean and sustainable source of energy and the society has acknowledged the relevance of the PMUY on account of its health benefits, environment dividends, time saved and utilised for gainful economic activities leading empowerment of women," Pradhan said.
The Union Minister requested the state government to extend support in making the state smoke-free and providing LPG connection to all households.
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