Also, sops to rural BPL populace to discourage use of wood, kerosene

Even as acrimony continues to haunt the status of the Women's Reservation Bill, the Petroleum Ministry has gone ahead with its own scheme of things to “empower” rural Indian women making it mandatory for 50 per cent ownership by women of cooking gas dealerships under the Rajiv Gandhi Gramin LPG Vitrak Yojana.

The government is also considering sops to the Below Poverty Line population to encourage it to use the eco-friendly LPG cylinder and to give up burning of wood and use of kerosene in rural areas. The plan formulated by the government for this flagship scheme includes waiving of the Rs.1,400 security deposit and the regulator cost for BPL consumers. The oil marketing companies (OMCs) have already invited applications in 1,200 locations in eight States and plan to invite dealership offers in 800 villages by the end of March 2009.

Asked about the scheme, the Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister, Murli Deora, said the plan was being given a final shape and the subsidy component on this account would be met through State-owned OMCs' corporate social responsibility (CSR) funds.

Under the scheme, appointment of dealers would be based on the condition that the concerned individual must make his wife a partner in the business. A bachelor would be asked to give an undertaking that he would make his wife a partner after marriage. The idea is to empower rural women by providing them financial independence and the opportunity to grow.

The Petroleum Ministry has set a target to double the number of dealers in rural areas during the next financial year.

2,000 dealers planned

Minister of State for Petroleum and Natural Gas Jitin Prasada said the government planned to appoint 2,000 dealers in rural India. It planned to provide 55 million new cooking gas connections by 2015, mostly in remote, untouched and backward area households of rural India.

Currently, 83 per cent of the over 110 million cooking gas connections were in urban areas. The scheme was announced in October 2009.

Mr. Prasada said the government had made it mandatory for public sector oil companies to invest 2 per cent of their previous year's profits in CSR activities. The combined CSR fund for a year was estimated to be around Rs. 1,000 crore.

Officials said under the current scheme of things, a distributor was expected to earn up to Rs. 8,500 per month on the sale of 600 refills. The three state-owned oil marketing companies — Indian Oil Corporation, Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited and Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited — have so far appointed dealers in 45 villages located in West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Jharkhand.

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