Taking into consideration the safety and health interests of women in rural India, the Central Government launched a scheme of Pradhan Mantri Ujjawala Yojna – an initiative to provide clean and green cooking energy to all households in the country, especially in rural areas. The scheme is targeted for the LPG deprived households. The endeavor of “Har Ghar LPG” aims to provide every household safe and modern cooking arrangement i.e. LPG at subsidized rates. Though the use of LPG gives satisfaction and comfort but the price and availability of LPG remains the biggest issue. According to the International Energy Agency (2015), 2.7 billion people in the world still use traditional biomass fuel for the cooking purposes. As per the Census of 2011, LPG penetration in India is just 28% and now the government envisages to increases it by manifolds.
By Farah Zehra
The state wise consumption of LPG and various other traditional fuels
Impact on Health:
Air pollution generated by biomass fuel takes heavy toll on the health of the people. Around 4.3 million people die prematurely across the globe in which 1.3 million are from India. People suffer from various fatal diseases ascribed to the usage of biomass cooking fuels.
Death rate reported by WHO in 2012 due to various diseases
To address the issue of illness, premature deaths deaths and to improve the living standards of people in rural parts of the country, the ‘Ujjwala’ scheme had been devised. But, the question is, are the LPG deprived households ready to opt for modern cooking fuel? Despite of being aware of the health benefits of using LPG, will the rural population use its disposable income to opt for this modern cooking arrangement at their households?
Inability to pay is the main hurdle
A recent research study conducted by Dr Johannes Urpelainen and Ms Sandra Baquie of the Department of Political Science at Columbia University with the collaboration of Council of Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW) in the year 2015, it is found that around 95% of the LPG deprived households are reluctant to adopt LPG due to their inability to pay for it.
The survey conducted by MORSEL Research and Development Pvt Ltd, a Lucknow based Research consulting company in 6 states of the country, covered around 8,563 households. Mr. Atulesh Shukla, one of the Directors of MORSEL says that through this extensive survey it was found that people in rural areas still use firewood for cooking major part of meals, while LPG is only used for making tea or daal.The reason cited by them is the irregular supply of LPG. Because of this they use LPG very sparingly.
Use of LPG gives satisfaction
When households with and without LPG are compared, the difference in satisfaction is strongly in favor of those with LPG at home. The reason of this subjective satisfaction is attributed to the cost of firewood, safety, cooking speed and convenience. Although the rural households value LPG greatly, but the monthly expenditure which is quite high act as a barrier in adopting it. An interesting finding inferred from this study was that villagers prefer firewood collection rather than purchasing firewood. Though firewood collection is more taxing in terms of time and energy invested on it, but the perception is because they consider spending on a necessity like firewood is not worth it. The study also suggested that households value reduction in smoke, speed of cooking and quality of meals more than on cost, safety and difficulty of cooking.
Apart from the cost, administrative issues and lack of information are also some of the reasons why the rural households are reluctant in adopting LPG instead of their traditional stove or firewood Chulha. The study suggests that LPG would be more viable for households using commercially available biomass. But regular refilling of the cylinders might not be an impressive proposition for them. So what is imperative is to bridge the gap between the adoption and sustainable usage of LPG is imperative.
The study stresses that to challenge the status quo to adopt modern cooking fuel; people’s perception needs to be changed. Also, their subjective satisfaction is vital to bring the change. The effectiveness of the scheme lies in the fact that the gas connection reaches to every targeted household with its sustainable usage. So, with such a significantly remarkable scheme by the Government, some awareness campaign and efficient role at the administrative level can make this scheme effective.
To read the full paper https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2931705