According to the 2011 Census, around 78% of rural and 14% of the urban households in India used conventional solid fuels like wood, dry grass, and cow dung cakes to cook. The harmful pollutants emitted by burning these fuels affected women and children severely, resulting in respiratory illnesses. Hence in 2016, the government introduced the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY or the Ujjwala scheme) to transform the use of cooking energy by distributing LPG connections either free of cost or at subsidised rates. By March 2020, the government claimed that LPG coverage in the country had increased —with cylinders that use smokeless liquified petroleum gas—to 97.4% of India’s households. Yet, low use and poor refill rates for LPG cylinders by the beneficiaries have put the scheme under serious scrutiny.
Now, a recent study suggests that tailoring the Ujjwala scheme for rural households can increase LPG adoption. The study, published in the journal Nature Energy, involved researchers from the Council on Energy, Environment and Water, New Delhi, and Columbia Mailman School of Public Health, USA.
“Continued reliance on traditional cooking fuels defeats the purpose of the Ujjwala scheme. Therefore, through this paper, we wanted to understand how household and community level factors can increase the LPG use and reduce the solid fuel use for cooking”, says Mr. Sunil Mani, a programme associate at the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW) and an author of the study.
The study conducted two rounds of surveys in the densely populated states of Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal. The first survey, conducted in 2015, covered 8,563 households, and the second, in 2018, included 9,072 houses with a majority belonging to those covered in the first survey.