The Pradhan Mantri LPG Panchayat is an initiative started by the current government in power. In the LPG Panchayat, the Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the beneficiaries of the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY) scheme have a face to face conversation in which concerns regarding the scheme are raised. The LPG Panchayat was first started in Ballia, Uttar Pradesh, in 2016. Under the PMUY scheme, which is the energy policy of its kind in the country, free LPG connections are provided to women who belong to Below Poverty Line (BPL) households.
The aim of the government is to provide free LPG connections to 5 crore women under the scheme. Women are being given focus in the scheme because the government understands that it is the women who suffer due to lack of proper fuel. The government has aimed to conduct 1 lakh LPG Panchayats before 31 March, 2019.
In these LPG Panchayats in addition to the beneficiaries of the scheme and the Prime Minister , stakeholders such as OMC officials, distributors, mechanics and deliverymen are also present. The consumers can raise their concerns about any topics related to the scheme to any of the stakeholders.
Vision of the LPG Panchayat
Through the PMUY scheme, the government aims to provide every household that is below the poverty line in the country with an LPG connection. Through the scheme the government aims to eradicate the use of biomass and wood as fuel for cooking. In addition to this, the use of an LPG connection to cook food would also ensure that the members of the household are not exposed to the health hazards that would be caused if biomass or wood is used as the fuel.
Themes covered under LPG Panchayat
- Health: As per a report prepared by the World Health Organisation (WHO) along with blood pressure, indoor smoke pollution is the biggest killer in India causing 5 lakh deaths every year. Using a stove or wood/ biomass for cooking gives rise to air pollution inside the house which can cause serious health hazards to the members of the household. Infact as per a study, cooking food on an open fire in the house is equivalent to smoking 400 cigarettes in a day. Health hazards include pneumonia, adverse birth outcomes in children, the risk of cataracts, tuberculosis, heart disease and chronic lung disease in women. Therefore for households shifting from the traditional way of cooking to LPG connection would mean that health hazards mentioned above can be prevented. However most of the women who fall under the below poverty line category are illiterate and need to be educated about the health benefits of using LPG connection.
- The economic cost: Using an LPG connection for cooking also has bearing the economic costs which generally are less compared to when the household uses wood or biomass as the cooking fuel. Time spent collecting firewood or biofuel means that women tend to compromise in other departments which has a direct impact on other things. For instance if the daughter of the house collects the firewood for cooking food then she will definitely not be able to focus on her education and would eventually drop out. Using LPG will reduce the time required for cooking and allow the women to concentrate on other activities. This has a bearing on the economic cost as well which significantly reduces.
- Safety: One of the most focused areas of attention in the PMUY scheme is that of safety. When the LPG connections are distributed to the beneficiaries they are given a demo as to how to operate the cylinder. The beneficiaries are also handed a safety card which describes in detail the Dos and Don'ts of using an LPG cylinder. The distributor sends a trained mechanic to the home of the beneficiary to install the LPG cylinder. Also the government has made it mandatory for the distributors to to organise safety clinics in their area of operation. In addition to all this the Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs) have a dedicated department for helping people in situations of emergency. The customer care helpline numbers have been listed by the government on the official PMUY website. In rural areas where the people believe in myths that surround the usage of LPG, it is the job of the distributors to address them.
- Environment: PMUY has had a significant impact on the environment too. In fact, the World Health Organisation (WHO) praised the effects on the PMUY scheme on the environment. Using firewood or biomass causes damage to the environment. People in the rural areas still believe firewood and biomass to be a cheaper alternative than LPG and this is proving to be a deterrent factor in making people switch. The smoke released from the firewood and biomass not only has negative impact on the environment but also damages the health of the members of the household. Switching to LPG would mean using a cleaner form of fuel for cooking.
- Empowering women: The PMUY scheme has in fact changed the lives of million of women in the country. Under the scheme, the government distributes the LPG connection to the woman of the household. Having an LPG connection means differently to different women. For some it means the end of travelling long distances to collect firewood, for some it means spending more time with their family and for some it means concentrating on things other than cooking. Using LPG would mean the daughter in the household has to no longer help the mother to collect firewood which means she does not have to leave school and can concentrate on her education. With more time on their hands, women can join Self Help Groups (SHG) to improve their condition financially. Another woman can start her own business. Some of the sub-schemes being run by the government under these are MUDRA, STAND UP India and Sukanya Samriddhi Yojana.
Why is the LPG Panchayat needed?
LPG Panchayat is an event which has turned out to be very informative for the beneficiaries of the PMUY scheme, especially women of the rural households. The LPG Panchayat generally has discussion on the following topics:
- The use of LPG in a safe and sustainable manner.
- The advantages of using an LPG instead of firewood or biomass.
- Using the clean fuel for cooking.
- How the women have been empowered through the PMUY scheme.
- The achievements of the PMUY scheme.
- Discuss any grievances related to the PMUY scheme or usage of a cylinder.
Participants at LPG Panchayat
With the advent of the LPG Panchayat, the government has made it an effort to make sure that women attend these LPG Panchayats. Some of the attendees are:
- Young girls: Research by the government has revealed that presence of young women and girls in the household accelerates the process of switching to an LPG connection instead of using firewood or biomass. It is essential that young women in the rural areas do attend these Panchayats. The government’s objective is to ensure that at least 1/4th of the total attendees are young girls.
- A local woman leader: The government also ensures that there is a local woman leader attending the LPG Panchayat. The local leader can be a teacher, nurse, doctor, health worker, a police person, a businesswoman, a social or political activist, an advocate, an artist etc.
- Local ASHA workers: The presence of local ASHA workers is necessary as they interact with the common women on a daily basis which helps them relay their problems in a clear manner.
- Aanganwadi workers: The Aanganwadi workers are involved in cooking meals for the children.
- Primary School teachers , Mid Day Meal Coordinators, Bhojan Matas: These workers are involved in cooking the Mid Day meal on the wooden chulha.
- NRLM Community Mobilizers: The NRLM community mobilizers work with the women on savings and SHGs.
- Women Panchayat representatives and other local community leaders: These are the influential women in the area.