Access to clean cooking fuel is a basic necessity that is often taken for granted in many parts of the world. However, in India, a large section of the population still relies on traditional cooking methods that use biomass fuel like wood, crop residue, and cow dung. These methods are not only harmful to the environment but also pose severe health hazards to the users, especially women and children. According to a report by the World Health Organization, exposure to household air pollution from cooking with solid fuels leads to over a million premature deaths in India every year. Recognizing this issue, the Indian government launched the Ujjwala Yojana in 2016 to provide access to clean cooking fuel to millions of households in the country.
What is Ujjwala Yojana?
Ujjwala Yojana is a social welfare scheme launched by the Government of India in 2016. The objective of the scheme is to provide clean cooking fuel to households that are still using traditional methods of cooking, particularly those belonging to the below poverty line (BPL) families. The scheme aims to safeguard the health of women and children by providing them with access to LPG (Liquefied Petroleum Gas) for cooking, thereby reducing their exposure to harmful fumes emitted by traditional cooking methods.
Under the scheme, eligible beneficiaries are provided with a free LPG connection along with a stove and a cylinder. The scheme also provides financial assistance of up to Rs. 1600 to cover the cost of the connection and the initial refill. The scheme is implemented by the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas in collaboration with the state governments and the oil marketing companies.
Impact of Ujjwala Yojana
Since its launch in 2016, the Ujjwala Yojana has made a significant impact in providing access to clean cooking fuel to millions of households in India. As of March 2021, over 8 crore LPG connections have been provided to eligible beneficiaries under the scheme, with a coverage of over 99% of the districts in the country. The scheme has particularly benefited women and children, who are most vulnerable to the health hazards caused by traditional cooking methods. The use of LPG has not only improved their health outcomes but has also resulted in significant time and cost savings by reducing the need for collecting firewood and other biomass fuels.
The scheme has also created employment opportunities for women entrepreneurs through the formation of Self-Help Groups (SHGs). The SHGs are involved in the door-to-door distribution of LPG connections, as well as creating awareness among the beneficiaries about the benefits of clean cooking fuel.
Challenges and the Way Forward
While the Ujjwala Yojana has made significant progress in providing access to clean cooking fuel, there are still challenges that need to be addressed. The affordability of LPG refills is a significant issue, particularly for households with low income. The government has taken steps to address this by launching the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana-PMUY Seva Kendra scheme, which provides doorstep delivery of LPG refills to the beneficiaries.
Another challenge is the need to ensure the sustained use of LPG by the beneficiaries. This requires creating awareness among the beneficiaries about the benefits of clean cooking fuel, as well as ensuring the availability of LPG refills and repair services in remote areas.
In conclusion, the Ujjwala Yojana has been a game-changer in providing access to clean cooking fuel to millions of households in India. The scheme has not only improved the health outcomes of women and children but has also created employment opportunities for women entrepreneurs. However, there is still a long way to go in ensuring universal access to