BJD should co-operate in making Odisha 100% smoke-free: Dharmendra

Bhubaneswar: Responding to the complaints about failure of Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY) in Odisha, Union Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan once again explained about the PMUY requesting the BJD government to cooperate in making Odisha 100 per cent smoke-free State and not involve in politics over a sacred scheme.

Pradhan, yet again wrote a letter to Food Supplies Minister Surya Narayan Patro today referring to the ‘factually incorrect’ news reports on beneficiaries under PMUY failing to avail LPG cylinder refilling.

“Since the launch in May 2016, the scheme has covered as many as 35, 16, 384 households but only 8,18,786 beneficiaries have taken second refill in 2016-17, which further dropped down to 6,45, 265 (18.3 per cent of total coverage) for 2017-18 (till July 24, 2018),” Patro had stated in the letter referring to a newspaper report.

However, denying the allegations Pradhan said that the letter based on a news report, is factually incorrect, absolutely unsubstantiated, devoid of facts and completely misleading.

“I expect the State Government extends wholehearted support in providing LPG connections to all households and making the State smoke free,” Pradhan wrote in his letter.

Stating that he had offered CM Naveen earlier that he would explain about PMUY to him and his colleagues, Pradhan explained, “PMUY is a flagship programme of Government of India which is intended to provide access to clean cooking LPG to poor households. The Ujjwala Yojana has been immensely useful in transforming the lives of underprivileged especially poor women and children. Access to clean LPG has freed poor households from indoor pollution that causes respiratory and lung diseases. Poor women of Odisha have been relieved from the drudgery of collecting firewood. In addition, a plethora of academic and scientific studies done by Prof. Kirk Smith from University of California, Global Alliance for clean cooking stoves and IHS Markit have recognized the positive outcome of this flagship programme to make villages smoke free.”

He continued, “In Odisha, 41 lakh LPG connections have been provided to poor households till December 12, 2018, of which, 35.22 lakh connections have been given under PMUY. Further, PMUY has played a critical role in significantly enhancing the total number of LPG consumers from 19 lakhs in May 2014 to 72.5 lakhs in 2018 in Odisha. The LPG coverage in Odisha has expanded from 22 % in 2014 to 69 % in 2018.”

“The Government of India is bearing subsidy on LPG refills to protect the consumers from price volatility. The subsidy is transferred directly into the bank account of the beneficiaries through the DBTL (PAHAL) eliminating leakages in subsidy transfer and role of the middleman. Currently, in Odisha, the subsidy per cylinder is Rs.326.22 which fully protects the consumers from any price increase. Further, to ensure easy access to refills and to address the affordability issue, the Oil Marketing Companies have tied up with Common Service Centres,” he wrote in the letter.

Pradhan further mentioned, “Based on the recent analysis for all PMUY consumers in Odisha who have completed one year of installation, nearly 70% households came back for refill and nearly 4.2 lakhs consumers have taken 4 or more refills. This clearly indicates a marked behavioural change amongst the common man in Odisha to make a transition towards clean and sustainable source of energy and society has acknowledged the relevance of the PMUY on account of its health benefits, environment dividends, and time saved and utilized for gainful economic activities leading empowerment of women.”

Responding to Pradhan, Surya Patro said, “People are facing a lot of difficulties to pay for LPG connections. If the Centre can provide the facility for free of cost then it is feasible or else the whole scheme is a failure.”