Out of 1.58 crore LPG (liquified petroleum gas) users in Karnataka, 31 lakh are below poverty line women from rural Karnataka getting subsidised cooking gas under the Centre’s flagship Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana. However, average annual refill consumption is only 3.53 cylinders, according to the latest CAG (Comptroller and Auditor General) report.
Under the scheme, Karnataka showed impressive coverage by crossing the target number of beneficiaries. But, the refill consumption figure indicates that women still resort to polluting fuel such as firewood which are harmful to their health and environment. However, officials attribute the poor refill consumption to other factors.
According to a study conducted in Koppal by the University of British Columbia, an average rural family needs at least 10 cylinders weighing 14.2 kg to fulfill their cooking needs. But under Ujjwala, women are availing of less than four refills annually.
A 14.2-kg cylinder costs Rs 546.20 with the government’s subsidy. The government introduced the 5-kg cylinders at a subisidised rate of Rs 260 under the scheme to encourage women to book refills when cash is scarce. But the cylinder sales have belied the expectation.
All three Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs)- Indian Oil Corporation Limited (IOCL), Bharat Petroleum Corporation (BPC) and Hindustan Petroleum Corporation (HPC) together have only sold 1.24 lakh 5-kg cylinders so far in Karnataka this fiscal year.
K Sailendra, Chief General Manager (LPG), Karnataka, IOCL, told DH, “Consumption in rural areas is less compared to urban areas. Rural people cook only once in the morning before heading to work and unlike us who reheat the food and make coffee, tea, and snacks, they don’t have such habits in rural areas. As much as 83% of the women are taking refills. Despite that the average consumption is 3.53 cylinders.”
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Migration is one of the factors, Sailendra said. “Migrants who go from one place to another won’t take refills. For people who have affordability issues we’re offering 5-kg cylinders,” he added.
Dr. Tanuja Trivedi, Director of Women’s Agency for Generating Employment, has studied the consumption patterns of domestic fuel in the course of her career.