New Delhi: As many as four LPG cylinders are bought by about 60 per cent of the 3.2 crore poor women who were given free cooking gas connection, Oil Minister Dharmendra Pradhan said on Tuesday.
Since launch on May 1, 2016, more than 3.2 crore LPG connections, each costing Rs 1,600, have been given to poor women under the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY). This is more than half of the 5 crore free LPG connection target sector for three years.
"We have studied the first year consumption pattern and have found that about 60 per cent of the beneficiaries on an average bought four refills. This is a very encouraging trend and we hope the number will increase in future," he said here.
Debunking reports that most of the women who got free LPG connections did not buy a refill, he said data suggests beneficiaries are buying LPG refills after exhausting the first bottle.
There however are pockets like tribal areas where the refill is nil as they have gone back to use of firewood. Addressing inauguration of India chapter of 'Women in LPG' here, he said PMUY was launched to provide clean cooking fuel to about 10 crore households that used firewood, coal, dung-cakes and other polluting fuel.
The smoke from burning such fuels causes alarming household pollution and adversely affects the health of women and children causing several respiratory diseases/ disorders, he said.
As per a WHO report, smoke inhaled by women from unclean fuel is equivalent to burning 400 cigarettes in an hour.
"PMUY aims to safeguard the health of women by providing them with a clean cooking fuel LPG, so that they do not have to compromise their health in smoky kitchens or wander in unsafe areas collecting firewood," he said.
He said Rs 8,000 crore was allocated for the scheme. Pradhan said 13-14 crore LPG connections were given between 1955, when the fuel was launched in India, and 2014.
This number has swelled to 21.4 crore in last three years and all the households would have LPG in the next 2-4 years, he said. India has over 25 crore households.
In 2013-14, India had 16.8 crore registered LPG customers, which has increased to 25.37 crore by end of September 2017. But not all of the registered are active users.
As of September, 21.4 crore were active users out of the registered population. The active users were 14.85 crore in 2014-15. Data for active users in 2013-14 is unavailable.
"Today we have 77 per cent penetration of LPG. In 2-4 years, it would be near total or cent per cent," Pradhan said.
To meet the rising demand, the government is expanding LPG infrastructure, setting up new bottling plants and raising number of distributors to 25,000 from current 19,223 in two years, he said.
"In two years, we will have 25 crore LPG consumers," he said.
The minister said PMUY is likely to result in an additional employment of around 1 lakh and provide business opportunity of at least Rs 10,000 crore in businesses ranging from setting up of infrastructure to manufacture cylinders, gas stoves, regulators, and gas hose.