Post-electoral reverses, government expands free LPG beneficiary list

New Delhi: Close on the heels of the ruling BJP’s recent electoral defeat in the Hindi heartland, the Union Cabinet on Monday approved the expansion of beneficiaries under the Ujjwala Yojana for providing cooking gas to poor families.

Briefing reporters here following a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA), Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan said the government has approved the release of deposit-free liquid petroleum gas (LPG) connections for poor families which have so far been left uncovered by the scheme that seeks to boost efforts for ushering in a cleaner gas-based economy in the country

“CCEA has approved the expansion of beneficiaries list under the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana to release deposit-free LPG connections to poor families so far uncovered,” Pradhan said.

“This is subject to fulfilling eligibility norms and furnishing required documents.”

The decision comes days after the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) lost power in Rajasthan, Chattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh, which now have Congress governments. Seats from the Hindi heartland accounted for the bulk of seats won by the BJP in the 2014 general elections.

According to a post-poll analysis, the party has lost the equivalent of 32 Lok Sabha seats in these three states in the latest elections.

A Petroleum Ministry release said the Cabinet decided to extend the Ujjwala scheme to the poor not included earlier “on account of their names not being covered either in the Socio-Economic Caste Census (SECC) list or the seven identified categories i.e. SC/STs households, beneficiaries of Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY Gramin), Antyodaya Anna Yojana, Forest Dwellers, Most Backward Classes, Tea and Ex-Tea Garden Tribes and people residing in islands/ river islands whose names did not appear in the SECC list.”

Launched in May 2016, under the Ujjwala scheme deposit-free LPG connections are released with the cash assistance of Rs 16,007 per connection and an interest-free loan to purchase the stove and refill, the statement said.

So far, more than 5.86 crore LPG connections have been released under the scheme, against the target of 8 crore, it added.