India is progressing; it may be a political slogan. In reality, it says different so far as women’s freedom, liberty and happily living are concerned. Women of poor families are still in darkness, and they have to face gender discrimination and patriarchal domination. Their everyday life is full of pain and anxiety. They have to manage their family to ensure their families happiness. They feed family members when they have to pass with empty stomach. Their day-to-day health is undoubtedly in crisis only due to unhealthy cooking fuel.
Mr. Narendra Modi turned his head to revive their health and happiness through launching the ‘Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana” (PMUY), a social welfare scheme under the tagline “Swachh Indhan, Behtar Jeevan” on 1st May 2016. ‘The scheme envisages of smoke free Rural India and aims to benefit five crore families, especially the women living below poverty line (BPL) by providing concessional LPG connections to entire nation by 2019’. Its broad aim is to reduce health disorders, air pollution and deforestation. Accordingly, this scheme was implemented and a few crore women avails this benefit.
Are these women beneficiaries of this scheme availing this service in time of pandemic and price hike of domestic cooking gas? It has recorded that poor families are jobless due to the Covid-19 crisis. They are typically unable to manage their families with two squares of meals daily. Further, ‘there is no subsidy available on cooking gas. LPG prices are generally revised at the beginning of every month. But they were hiked thrice in February 2021. Domestic LPG cylinder price was hiked from Rs. 694 a cylinder in January 2021 to Rs. 719 a cylinder on February 4. The price was once again hiked by Rs. 50 to Rs. 769 a cylinder on February 15 in the national capital. A third price hike of Rs. 25 per cylinder was done on February 25.’ It has happened to be a regular routine of price hike of cooking gas.
What benefit does it bring to the life of women of poor families? A study was conducted among the beneficiaries of PMUY of rural area of South 24 Parganas and East Midnapore district of West Bengal, where 200 women beneficiaries were randomly surveyed and their opinions were collected, aiming to assess the use of this service. It was gravitated that about 65% of them was not booked a second time after availing an inaugural cylinder. Only 20% of them consumed the 2nd and 3rd time, but due to the pandemic they were unable to re-book further. Last of all, regular price hike of gas cylinders has to force them to totally stop use of this service for at least the last 3 months. Now this cylinder has become a status symbol to them. Most of them have returned to their old habits of use of unhealthy fuel like wood, leaf and so forth. A certain portion of them has to use kerosene oil for cooking. But supply of kerosene is also a rarity.
In their own words, ‘we were happy to get this benefit. We thought that our prolonged agony would be removed. At least the government has prioritized our daily suffering. But it has increased our agony. Is it only a political lure?’
Therefore, their hope for good is dying in midway. Would this government rethink about it?
The views and opinions expressed by the writer are personal and do not necessarily reflect the official position of VOM.
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