Steep prices smoke out LPG in rural Karnataka, villages shift back to traditional firewood

The country’s first village that bid goodbye to traditional cooking fuels, like wood, and went smokeless was Vyachakurahalli from Chikkaballapur district in 2015. But in 2021, six years down the line, thousands of households, especially in rural Karnataka, are contemplating switching back to firewood or coal for cooking and ditching gas stoves as LPG prices have skyrocketed over the last year.

Under the much-hyped Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY), women below the poverty line get a free gas cylinder and subsidised refills to wean them away from unhealthy cooking fuels to make villages smoke-free.

Though a release from Indian Oil Corporation Ltd stated that a 7.3 per cent increase has been seen in overall LPG consumption between December 2020 and February 2021, a reality check by The New Indian Express suggests otherwise.

In rural parts of Karnataka, including in Mysuru, Kalaburagi, Chikkaballapur, Chikkamgaluru, Uttara Kannada and other districts, many households are using LPG only as an emergency option and have not got refills over the last many months.

Nothing is Ujjwala, everything dark here, rues Koppal villager

“I have a cylinder at home. It will get over in a couple of weeks and I will not get it refilled as a cylinder costs Rs 980 in our village. Ours is a big family and we cannot afford such a high cost every month. We have shifted back to firewood for cooking,” said Mahantesh Ramappa Hosamani, a Karyakartha, Coolie Karmikara Sangha, at Aihole village of Bagalkot district.

“It is not just our home, but almost every household in our village and those in Hungund taluk have completely stopped using LPG after the price hike,” he added.

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