Modest villages lining the road from the Varanasi airport to the city tell a tale of how after the initial success, Ujjwala is now facing hiccups in the Prime Minister’s Lok Sabha constituency.
The Socio-Economic Caste Census 2011 does not have the names of most of the women in villages, who have been denied the privileges of the scheme, according to Anita from Rohaniaya, Balirampur.
She said: “We have tried multiple times to get a connection but with no avail. It has been over a year since we have filled the forms to get the connection. But the only response we get is that our name is not on the list. So we continue to use wood for cooking.”
Anita is not alone in the region who is struggling to get a connection. Vinod Kumar Patel, Gram Pradhan of Sarai Kazi in Varanasi Parliamentary constituency, said that the gaps in SECC have made it difficult to ensure that most people in the village get the LPG connections. He said: “There are 500 houses in our village. We have bought 50 connections at our own expense and the village has some 35 Ujjwala connections. But the rest of us have no idea as to when we will get the connections. The names in the SECC list do not exist in the village, and there is no way to get legitimate recipients added into it.”
This situation is no better in Jayapur, one of the three villages adopted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “We have been trying to get the Ujjwala LPG connection for a year now, but without any success. Officials come and collect forms and identity proofs. Our names are in the SECC 2011 list, but the names of our wives are not there, so we are not getting the connections. We have been identified as Below Poverty Line residents, but we are told that the scheme has not yet been extended to us,” said Ajay Kumar, a resident of Harijan basti in the village.
But those who have connections are not finding it easy, too. In Nagepur, the other village adopted by the PM, women folk speak in similar tones about the high cost of cooking gas. “The cost of the cylinder has been close to ₹840 for the past few months. This is well beyond our means. It will be possible to afford these if the cylinders are subsidised,” according to Arti Devi, one of the Ujjwala connection recipients.
Arti has used four cylinders in the past year. She cooks for her children who go to school and is glad that she doesn’t have to struggle with smoke. “If the cylinder is cheaper, we will be able to opt for more of them,” she added.