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85% Ujjwala Beneficiaries Still Using Chulhas: RICE Survey Exposes Failure of Modi’s Pet Project

The study was conducted in Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan.

The Ujjwala scheme being touted as a major success of the government by the Prime Minister in poll rallies ahead of the Lok Sabha elections of 2019, has been busted by a recent survey. Conducted by the Research Institute for Compassionate Economics (RICE), the survey unravels the truth behind the scheme showing that most rural households that received the LPG connections, still tend to use the chulhas because of not having the financial capacity to refill their cylinder.

The study, analysed by Priscilla Jebaraj in The Hindu, conducted in rural Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan shows that 85 percent of Ujjwala beneficiaries are not using the LPG cylinders for reasons of financial incapabilities and gender inequality. They resort to using chulhas made of firewood and dung cakes causing air pollution that can be disastrous for the health of the rural folk -high levels of air pollution caused by usage of solid fuels can kill infants and older people, get in the way of healthy child development, and contribute to heart and lung disease, states the study.

Also Read: A Cruel Joke: BPL Status Snatched From Families Who Received LPG Connection in Gujarat Tribal Villages

Covering 1550 households in eleven districts of the rural stretches of the four states, the survey found that while there has been an increase in number of households owning LPG cylinders (76% now owning), more than 98% of these households also own a chulha. On being asked if food items — roti, rice, sabzi, dal, chai and milk — had been cooked on the chulha or the gas stove the previous day, there was an alarming percentage of people who claimed to use the chulha. The study found that only 27% of households exclusively used the gas stove, 37% said they use both the chulha and the gas stove, while 36% made everything on the chulha.

The trend of using the chulha is more acute among those who received an LPG connection from the government under the scheme; reportedly, almost 53% exclusively used the chulha, while 32% used both. Suggesting that more refill subsidies may help kick-off use of LPG in rural areas better, the report states, “Ujjwala beneficiaries are poorer, on average, than households who got LPG on their own. Refilling the cylinder is a greater fraction of their monthly consumption, and they may be less likely to get a refill immediately after a cylinder becomes empty.”

The survey found that gender inequalities also play a role. Given that women are not the key economic decision-makers in these households, the switch from chulhas to LPG has become even more difficult. Reportedly, surveyors found that almost 70% of households do not spend anything on solid fuels, implying that the relative cost of an LPG cylinder refill, even if subsidised further, is far higher. While women are more likely to make dung cakes, men are more likely to cut wood for the chulhas. Further, women are often the ones collecting the wood and carrying it to their homes.

Also Read: Chhattisgarh: Ujjwala Scheme Is Another Jumla. Not Able To Refill LPG Cylinders, Poor Women Still Use Chulhas, Get Exposed to Hazardous Pollutants

Per the report, most of the survey respondents agreed that it was easier to cook on a gas stove, but felt that food cooked on the chulha — especially rotis — was tastier. It also adds that while 70 percent of the respondents  thought the gas stove was better for the health of the cook (typically a woman), more than 86% believed that cooking on the chulha was better for the health of those eating- unveiling their ignorance of the fact that air pollution is harmful even to those who are not cooking the food.

The report as cited in The Hindu said that a common belief that emerged in the interviewee households was that “eating food cooked on gas causes gas [in the stomach],” emphasising on the lack of awareness irrespective of government schemes.

The survey conducted from September-December 2018 covers an area that inhabits two-fifths of the country’s rural population.

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