In India, until recently the rural women had no freedom from their daily, choking smoky kitchens and its eyes burning environment. The smoky kitchen obviously becomes the cause of various health hazards. According to WHO estimates, hundreds of thousand women and children became victims of this silent killer. But it never becomes a topic of debate in our country though its magnitude was significant. The women in the developed world shifted to pollution free and convenient fuels many decades ago. Further, the counterparts of rural Indian women living in urban areas also shifted to LPG based cooking slowly but steadily. But the rural women, particularly the women belonging to BPL families and backward communities, were deprived of this facility. Though LPG as cooking fuel introduced in India in the 1950’s, for many decades it remained a luxury for the deprived class.
The use of traditional cooking practice is not only harmful to human beings but also fatal to the environment. Cavemen adopted the use of fire for cooking in pre-historic times. Since then its associated environmental impact also started. The impact was mainly due to various reasons like cutting down of trees for fire woods or making charcoal, deforestation, habitat loss, carbon emission etc. According to reports millions of people across the globe, mainly in South Asia and Africa are depended on fire woods and charcoal for cooking. In countries like China so many people use coal as cooking fuel. The environmental costs of these practices are in ascendance. Therefore, mitigating its environmental impact is a challenge but shared responsibility of all. Our population has crossed the mark of 1.3 billion and a significant portion of this still lives in rural areas. Moreover, a large number of this population heavily depends on traditional fuels for cooking. Therefore, evolving alternative practices to reduce the impact of unclean energy should become our priority.
The NDA Government initiated an ambitious scheme named Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY) to provide deposit free LPG connections for BPL households. In fact, the main focus of the scheme is women belonging to BPL families. Therefore, the connections will be given in the name of an adult woman in the targeted families. Further, to ensure the success of the scheme the government has allotted Rs 8000 crore to provide financial support of Rs. 1600 for each LPG connection to the BPL households. A few days back Minister of State (I&C) for Petroleum and Natural Gas Dharmendra Pradhan conducted a press conference and informed that within 6 months of lunging the scheme more than 1 Crore connections were given under PMUY. This was from out of 1.81 crore applications received. Successful implementation of an ambitious programme in such a short span of time indicates the efficiency and resolve of the government. This is also unprecedented when we consider the track record of previous governments in this sector.
Perhaps realising this KM Mahesh deputy secretary in charge of LPG in the Ministry of P&NG calls it ‘A Blue Flame Revolution’. What make PMUY a revolutionary step, the first is its coverage of a large but deprived section of our society the SCs and STs. Normally the government programmes intended for poor would not reach this section properly. But in this case, the reach out to this communities is exceptional. More than 44 per cent of the beneficiaries belongs to this category. The second is its health benefits; it would emancipate millions of women and children from life-threatening respiratory and other diseases caused by carbon emitting kitchens. And the third is its environmental impact; hopefully, this scheme would help us in a large extent to save our already endangered forest resources and biodiversity.
In this context the step taken by the government and its faster implementation is commendable. Like other revolutions, the white and the green revolutions, certainly we can hope that this programe also will change millions of lives in our country and bring environmental dividends. Considering the positive impact of the scheme on the lives of millions of people and the environment definitely, we can call it ‘A Blue Flame Revolution’
(The writer is a researcher
and social activist)