They are healthier, their homes are cleaner and they have more time to themselves, say most beneficiaries of the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana, the Centre’s flagship scheme to provide LPG connections to below-poverty-line households.

A survey undertaken by financial consulting firm MicroSave in 12 districts of eastern, central and western Uttar Pradesh, revealed that nearly all of the beneficiaries of the scheme switched to cooking on gas as soon as the LPG cylinders were made available.

For women, who are the chief beneficiaries of the scheme, the assessments revealed that cooking on gas stoves helped save at least 1-2 hours daily, which they used for leisure activities or other household pursuits. This was partly because cooking on gas was faster, and because it saved them the time and effort needed to go out to collect firewood.

“They reported spending time chatting with their neighbours, resting, or even doing other household work,” said Manoj Sharma, Director, MicroSave Asia.

Half way there

Launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on May 1, 2016, at Ballia in Uttar Pradesh, over 2.17 crore BPL families in 694 districts across the country have received LPG connections under the PMUY.

The scheme intends to make available 5 crore LPG connections over 3 years to women in BPL families, with each household being provided a financial assistance of ₹1,600. The upfront payment required for an LPG connection is waived so as to make the scheme more attractive.

The BPL families are identified in consultation with the governments of States and Union Territories.

The survey also revealed that women found their houses to be cleaner now, in the absence of smoke emissions that would earlier come with using biomass and firewood, staining their utensils and roofs with soot.

The lack of smoke had also reduced health problems in women, such as burning sensation in the eyes, coughing and even headaches.

“Most beneficiaries were very satisfied with the scheme,” said Sharma, adding that the enrolment of applicants was also smooth and orderly, and took just about 10-15 days for every eligible family.

The assessments, which covered LPG dealers, village-level representatives, PMUY beneficiaries and non-users (who had applied but did not get connections) also found that safety instructions had to be provided as the targeted households had no prior exposure to cooking on LPG stoves.

Beneficiaries required instructions that low-rise thatched ceiling, poor ventilation, flammable house materials and clothing were major risks while cooking on gas stoves.

“The Ujjwala scheme has also increased the aspirations of beneficiaries, who now also wish for items such as lighters to light their gas stoves with,” said Sharma.