State-Centre face-off over Ujjwala scheme in Odisha

Bhubaneswar: Union Minister for Petroleum and Natural Gas Dharmendra Pradhan on Thursday lambasted the Odisha government for carrying out false political campaign against the Ujjwala scheme and said that it shows the ruling party’s apprehension about the rising popularity of the welfare scheme among the poor in the State.

The response came a day after Minister for Food Supplies and Consumer Welfare Surya Narayan Patro wrote a letter to Pradhan alleging that the beneficiaries of Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY) are not able to avail refilling of LPG cylinders under the scheme due to high rate and thus the programme is losing its objective in the State.

“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.

“Poor rate of refilling is a clear indication of shifting back to biomass for cooking purposes by the beneficiaries covered under the scheme,” Patro added.

Patro further cited the assessment report of CRISIL on household cooking fuel usage and willingness to convert to LPG which covered 12 states across the country including Odisha and mentioned that high initial cost of connection and high recurring cost of LPG refill are the major barriers preventing the large scale penetration of LPG connectivity.

“In Odisha too, more than 90 per cent households have highlighted high cost of LPG refilling as a major barrier for shifting towards LPG. If the barrier of high recurring cost of refill of LPG is not addressed immediately, the basic objective of the scheme will be defeated,” minister Patro pointed out.

However, responding to the Patro’s concerns, Pradhan in a series of tweets said, “Odisha had 19 lakh LPG connections till May 2014 which has increased to 72.5 lakhs including 41 lakhs BPL gas connections as on today.”

Adding that he had earlier offered CM Naveen Patnaik and his colleagues to explain about PMUY, Pradhan said, “The PMUY and LPG schemes under Modi government have transformed lives of 41 lakh BPL families in Odisha in the last 4 years.”

“The false political campaign of BJD government against PMUY shows their fear about the rising popularity of Ujjwala Scheme among the poor families in the State. I will request them to cooperate to make Odisha 100 per cent smoke-free state and not to do politics over a sacred scheme,” tweeted Pradhan