Ujjwala mis­sion: A work in progress

Hindustan Times ST (Mumbai) - - HTNATION -

out. That gives a fig­ure of 38 mil­lion women hav­ing ob­tained LPG con­nec­tions and we are also told the tar­get has been in­creased from 50 mil­lion to 80 mil­lion. In ad­di­tion, there is a per­for­mance dash­board at my­gov.in and since it is real time, it is more cur­rent than the first doc­u­ment. The dash­board shows a fig­ure of 41 mil­lion.

Is some­thing like the PMUY a good idea? I haven’t met any­one who has said it is a bad idea. Is there any du­plic­ity (per­haps I should have writ­ten mul­ti­plic­ity) and dou­ble count­ing in the num­bers? Be­cause of sev­eral dili­gence checks used, I haven’t met any­one who has claimed that. Hence, half-full ver­sus halfempty. Those who want to fill the glass look upon it as half-full and those who want to empty the glass look upon it as half-empty. Per­cep­tion is coloured by the lens one wears.

It is also a fact that im­prove­ments face the phe­nom­e­non of the bar be­ing con­stantly raised. There­fore, there is a cri­tique that ar­gues the fol­low­ing. The PMUY is fine. How­ever, hav­ing in­tro­duced the PMUY, you need to build on it. De­spite get­ting a LPG con­nec­tion, peo­ple don’t re­fill cylin­ders. Why don’t they? Bor­der­ing on the spec­u­la­tive, one can hy­poth­e­sise.

Even when sub­sidised, LPG costs are high. Fire­wood is cheaper and neg­a­tive ex­ter­nal­i­ties as­so­ci­ated with fire­wood not ap­pre­ci­ated enough.

The mar­ket wants smaller cylin­ders (5 kg), but dis­trib­u­tors only sup­ply larger ones (14.2 kg). Rs 1,600 still means losses for oil mar­ket­ing com­pa­nies and with­out re­fills, dis­trib­u­tors suf­fer losses.

De­spite such el­e­ments of a cri­tique, it is not ob­vi­ous what the pol­icy de­duc­tions are. Is there an argument for in­creas­ing subsidy on sub­sidised LPG cylin­der fur­ther? Is it an argument for in­creas­ing the fixed cost subsidy be­yond Rs 1,600? Is there a case for tweak­ing EMI pro­vi­sions? (I haven’t gone into these de­tails.) Or is this sim­ply a case of mar­kets re­act­ing with a time lag?

Oddly enough, not too many peo­ple in metro In­dia seem to know that April 20 is cel­e­brated as Ujjwala Di­was, a part of Gram Swaraj Ab­hiyan (GSA).

In­deed, many don’t seem to know about the GSA. Full for ru­ral may mean empty for metro.

Bibek Debroy is chair­man of Eco­nomic Ad­vi­sory Coun­cil to the Prime Min­is­ter and a mem­ber of Niti Aayog The views ex­pressed are per­sonal


Ac­cord­ing to the 2011 Cen­sus, the use of cook­ing gas in ru­ral house­holds rose from 5.7% to 11.4% from 2001

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