Barely 20 kilometres from Ahmedabad, at a Thakor vaas in Manipur village of Sanand Taluka, Kaliben Thakor expresses joy as her kids – a 7-year-old boy and a 12-year-old girl – can now savour the taste of the famous Gujarati snack dhokla , made in their own kitchen. Thanks to the Liquified Petroleum Gas (LPG) connection which Kaliben got under PMUY, she can try her hand beyond the traditional dal, subzi and rotla (millet bread) on a chulha (earthen fireplace).

The wife of a labourer gets teary when she says: “We don’t have land nor a regular job. We are labourers, but this gas connection makes us feel that we too matter in the progressing society and can live with pride. I can see a bright future for my daughter.”

Kaliben is joined with Babiben Vaghela, who feels that PMUY brought closer a far-fetched dream to have a gas connection for her family of four. “We couldn’t have afforded this connection in our current single monthly income of ₹7,000. I cooked on gas at my parents’ place, but there was no gas at my in-law’s place. So, till last year, I had to cook on chulha, which was a nightmare for me. I am glad we were among the early beneficiaries of the scheme,” says Babiben.

Financial woes

However, affordability continues to be a pain point here as she admits of having a “hybrid” cooking system as she is forced to turn to the chulha after running out of gas for lack of financial arrangement. “We keep firewood for such emergencies and turn to chulha , because taking out ₹700 in one go every month is a tall task for us,” he adds.

The oil PSU Indian Oil Corporation Limited (IOC) is the state-level coordinator for the PMUY in Gujarat. According to IOC officials, out of the 39 lakh households surveyed as per the SECC data, close to 13 lakh were qualified to be beneficiaries under the PMUY. So far, 12.5 lakh connections have been provided across the State, and about 40,000-50,000 would be provided after clearing their KYC requirements.

“It was surprising to find that even in a progressive State like Gujarat, there were apprehensions among the beneficiaries about LPG connection. Some felt that it will eventually take away the benefits of rationing (Public Distribution System), while some had reservations about tastes or safety issues. But OMC distributors were the key drivers, who educated the customers about the benefits and converted them to use LPG,” said a district-level Nodal Officer in one of the OMCs.

Hansaben Rameshbhai Rana, a resident of Saraniya vaas near Lambha village within the Ahmedabad municipal corporation, also feels the gas charges are too high. Yet, she has refilled the gas cylinder three to four times since installation a year ago. “We don’t want to go back to chulha . So we try to save small amounts every month and pay for the cylinder refill. I still remember the day when I got a gas connection – first time in my locality. People came to inquire and greet me. The first item that I cooked was shiro (halva) and fed five girl kids as it is considered auspicious. It is the same feeling as having a newborn in a family, this too is a God’s gift to us,” says Hansaben.

Mamta Saraniya, a neighbour of Hansaben, is upset at the unending wait for the gas cylinder, as her name doesn’t appear in the SECC list.

“We start cooking on chulha as early as 5am to prepare lunch for 12 in the family. While many of our neighbours have got the gas, we want to get rid of this nuisance and get equal,” says Mamta.