On Uttar Pradesh’s border with Bihar lies the district of Ballia. Despite being home to freedom fighters and a late Prime Minister, the district seems to have missed the growth rest of the country has seen.

The district is about 170 km from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s constituency of Varanasi. However, it takes more than four hours to reach Ballia. The potholed roads are lined with garbage and household sewage.

This lack of development perhaps made Ballia the perfect location for Modi to launch in May the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY), a scheme to provide discounted LPG cylinders to women of over 5 crore below poverty line households across India.

Two months later, the roads to Ballia are still dismal. But what has changed is the queues outside LPG dealerships. Dealers are busy distributing gas connections.

The three oil marketing companies – Indian Oil Corporation, Hindustan Petroleum Corporation and Bharat Petroleum Corporation – have already done KYC (Know Your Customer) for 32,316 households and given 17,714 connections in Ballia. The district has a total of 4,26,709 households, according to the Socio Economic Caste Census 2011.

For schemes such as the PMUY the pace of implementation is crucial. The backbone of the scheme is the Jan Dhan Yojana, the financial inclusion scheme which was launched in 2014. That is crucial for PMUY, where the beneficiaries receive government subsidies directly in their bank accounts, and also helps them get the EMI scheme to buy the LPG connection.

The change that a simple cooking gas cylinder brings to the lives of the Ujjwala beneficiaries is evident. Seema Devi, who received the connection from the Prime Minister on May 1, has already taken three refills of cylinders. “The LPG connection has eased my life completely. I can now cook whenever the family wants food. There is no  jhanjhat  (problem) of getting cooking fuel like earlier,” she says.

Guddi Devi’s home in Jigni village in Ballia, still bears the marks of smoke from the wood fire or dung cake she was using to cook before getting the LPG connection. Her home has little inside it but the joy of having an LPG connection is evident as she proudly shows off her smoke-free kitchen.

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