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"Household air pollution led to 482,000 deaths in 2017.

The unclean cooking fuel causes deaths which are mostly due to non-communicable diseases including heart disease, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and lung cancer. Providing LPG connections to families below the poverty line ensures universal coverage of cooking gas in the country. The scheme can be a tool for women empowerment in that LPG connections and clean cooking fuel can reduce cooking time and effort, and in most of India, cooking is a responsibility shouldered solely by women. The scheme also employs the rural youth in the supply chain of cooking gas."

The programme, started in 2016, gives women from below-poverty-line households their first gas cylinder, a regulator and a connecting tube. The government pays the security deposit for the cylinder, the cost of regulator and the installation charges--Rs 1,600 in all--as a kind of “loan” that is later deducted by the gas agencies from the LPG subsidies that beneficiaries get in their bank accounts.

After this, families have to buy their own refill cylinders that cost about Rs 800-850 each upfront. Even though an amount of Rs. 200 is deposited (as subsidy) in their accounts after the loan amount is deducted, many beneficiaries cannot afford this price upfront.

Most homes in Khatlabor continue to cook on chulhas using firewood, dung and coal, breathing in noxious smoke: IndiaSpend Story

In a random survey conducted by volunteers and staff of Prayas, the percentage of households without cylinders showed up thus in three villages across Pratapgarh and Chittorgarh districts--42% (12/28) in Khatlabor, 45% (33/72) in Kesarpura and 20% (10/50) Sowani.

A substantial portion of these households are likely to be those that have not yet paid the ""loan"" component of the Ujjwala but “most of these households were not aware that this was the reason”, said the study which added that the Ujjwala guidelines have not been explained to most households. Additionally, some of these households have paid the loan component, and are still not getting the subsidy, for various reasons. Most of these could be due to glitches in the usage of Aadhaar, said Aashish Gupta of RICE.

The RICE study also found 35% of all LPG-owning households, and 60% of households that received LPG through Ujjwala, reported not receiving the subsidy at all.

The OMCs’ Citizen Charter on Marketing of Petroleum Products stipulated that the registration for new domestic LPG connection is to be done immediately and new connection is to be installed within seven working days. The CAG Audit analysed the PMUY consumers’ data to examine the time taken for installation of PMUY connections since the date of feeding of KYC details in the system. It was observed that installations were done with a considerable delay.

While there have been substantial increases in commitment to adjacent sectors such as transport, the almost total phase out of subsidies for LPG signal an end to the initially ground-breaking Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana, according to Bhargav Krishna (Centre for Policy Research).

The lack of subsidies, coupled with the substantial increase in prices of LPG over the last year will almost certainly mean more households will revert to using polluting cooking fuels in their homes, harming the health especially of women and children.

Factchecker Story: Over 9.5 Crore LPG Connections Provided Under PMUY But Gas Refilling Woes Remain

Ujjwala beneficiary households receive the connection either at subsidised rates or at no upfront cost at all. On the other hand, the decision and effort to procure an LPG connection means greater preparedness on the part of paying customers--behaviourally and financially, Sunil Mani, programme associate at the Delhi-based think-tank Council on Energy, Environment and Water, and a co-author of the paper, told IndiaSpend.

Households with irregular and uncertain cash flows--those dependent on agriculture or on daily wages--are less likely to use LPG as their main cooking fuel, perhaps because of the recurring and inflexible cost of LPG refills, the paper said.

IndiaSpend Story:

IndiaSpend Story - What govt must do to make people use cooking gas as sole fuel

Ujjwala beneficiaries have not switched completely to cooking gas because the refills are expensive. Around 85% of Ujjwala beneficiaries in rural Bihar, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh--where two-fifths of India’s rural population lives--still use solid fuels