It was one regular summer day in May 2016 when PM Modi launched Ujjwala scheme from Ballia in Uttar Pradesh on May 1st. This looked like one among hundreds of govt scheme where a big leader will participate in a fancy function, will deliver a heart touching speech after ceremonial distribution of benefits to few dozen people, People in the audience and others glued to their tv screen will start believing that something good will happen now and then like many other scheme this too will be lost in government papers forever. This was the harsh reality of schemes launched to benefit poor of this country as it was merely a photo opportunity and a PR exercise on the expense of tax payer money for top politicians of the day. 1st May was no different than that ,after all post 67 years of seeing same filmy episode running in loop , People were fed up with the system and were very much used to off seeing things only in paper and never reaching their door step. This whole exercise similar to many other welfare scheme was too solid on paper and too hard to ignore. Main objective of the scheme was to provide LPG connections to the women from Below Poverty line household with an ambitious and mammoth target to reach 5 crore households in 3 years , i.e by May 2018.
Today i.e on 04 April 2017 , exactly after 11th months and 4 days when first LPG connection was distributed under this scheme a breeze of fresh air seems to be blowing from the 2 crores households which has received LPG connection under this scheme. All of these women perhaps might have only seen LPG based stove and cylinder in one of the household where they might have been working as maid, an affluent neighbourhood or in a TV serial or movie aired on DD National. Before this they might not even have dreamed of ever using an LPG connection as in addition to monetary expenses there was also an additional level of examination to go through the tough and tiring beaurocratic process of oil marketing companies agents. Verifying yourself with proper set of documents , paying under the table and then convincing the sales man for not opting with their inflated stove cum regulator package was not less than running a cross country marathon. But government of the day by defying all these odds has somehow made it possible to reach 20 million BPL household in the short span of time.
It has been a well established fact from a long time that fossil fuel based cooking provide a serious health hazard not only to the women who cook but also other members of the family esp children . Apart from wasting too much of her time on collecting woods or making dung based dry cake ,she was also on receiving end due to plenty of smoke produced during the cooking process. This is one of the common cause for respiratory based illness in the BPL women and also lead of many of diseases in the children from early age. This has been known from decades but no govt has took the cognisance of matter and has never tried to do the obvious by eliminating this necessary evil.
Different from other welfare schemes of past.
Apart from reaching an unimaginable number of households in 11 months there is something more interesting about this scheme. Spending too much of amount on providing subsidised LPG connection to 5 crore poor household would definitely had a negative impact on economy and would had impacted spending capacity of the government on other important areas.Mr. Modi and his team was very well aware of this fact. But where there is a will there is a way – to fund this noble initiative government come up with two out of the box solutions to make this project fund itself with no (or minimal) impact on already strained country exchequer .
PAHAL : Using Aadhar government rolled out the LPG subsidy through Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) directly into the bank accounts of the consumers. Every connection was verified using Aadhar and as a result around 3 crore duplicate or illegal connections were revoked. This apart from plugging wide spread corruption and looting of the public money also made life easier for the LPG subscriber as it gave them much soughed freedom from standing in line to get subsidised LPG connection. Since now subsidy is directly transferred into his/her account consumers can easily buy the cylinder at market price.
GiveItUp: This is one of the unique scheme to voluntary give up LPG subsidy. This was the first time something of this sort was tried in this nation. Every household receive around 6000 rupees of annual subsidy on LPG. This was being availed by almost everyone in the country (including Chief Ministers :P). Even the people living well off life were availing this subsidy at the cost of poor. Government come up with a campaign to encourage people to give up their subsidy and as a result around 1.5 crore people has given it up. Administrative (including cylinder ,regulator etc) cost of giving an LPG connection is around 2000 Rs, so roughly a household who give up their subsidy can fund around 3 poor women gas connection annually. So if you are one who has #giveitup then in 3 years you will be providing LPG connection to around 9 poor women and you should be proud off about this philanthropic act . If you have not yet done so but think that there are people out there who need this subsidy more than you then please do your bit at http://www.givitup.in.
This is the first time in the history of Independent India that a govt welfare schemes with such a large scope seems to be running a head of it’s completion schedule. As everyone knows, we are not a poor nation but we have a problem of delay and diversions. In terms of purchasing power parity we are 3rd largest economy of the world and have enough resources to fund the welfare schemes for poor and bring them up for a healthy and dignified living. But widespread corruption in the system , lethargic speed at which things moves and nepotism is holding us back. In that time Ujjwala is showing the way by benefiting the poorest of the poor and much required changed faced of the government welfare program.