Cooking gas is a burning issue in many homes in rural Karnataka and in poll manifestos

LPG prices in the State have almost doubled in the last three years, forcing many families to reduce cooking gas use for emergency occasions only, reverting to firewood, and other plant materials

May 06, 2023 08:21 pm | Updated 09:04 pm IST - BENGALURU/KALABURAGI/SHIVAMOGGA

A worker arranges LPG gas cylinders at a warehouse in Bengaluru. File

A worker arranges LPG gas cylinders at a warehouse in Bengaluru. File | Photo Credit: PTI

Homemaker Daulamma of Hira village in Raichur district shares a common concern with Kamalabai of Heggali village in Kalaburgi district and Holeyamma of Samanahalli in Shivamogga district in Karnataka.

As the price of LPG cylinders have increased, the lifestyle of relative convenience in cooking achieved over the last decade thanks to these cylinders, has seen a reversal. The rise in price of LPG — now at ₹1,105 per cylinder in Bengaluru as opposed to ₹585 in May 2020 — has hit them hard.

Moderate use

“We used LPG for all our needs as it was cheaper and provided ease in cooking compared to firewood. It was used for making rotis, cooking rice and even heating water for bath. As the price of cooking LPG rose, its use has come down and we use alternative fuel in the form of locally available fuelwood,” Ms. Daulamma told The Hindu. Ms. Kamalabai concurred and said that they now use LPG sparingly, for preparing tea when guests come home or for reheating food when speed is of the essence.

Several poor families in north Karnataka have reverted to using the jali plant (Prosopis Juliflora), the stem of the red-gram plant, cow-dung cakes, corncobs and other locally available material, at least partially, as fuel for cooking or for heating bath water.

Like Ms. Daulamma and Ms. Kamalabai, Ms. Holeyamma also uses LPG in “emergency” situations only. “So, one cylinder is enough for four months for the family of five members,” she said. Her village has been merged with the neighbouring Anavatti Town Panchayat, denying the residents access to the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, bringing down their income.

No brides without LPG

The lifestyle pattern and LPG usage changes in villages close to cities such as Bengaluru and Mysuru. People in Ramanagara, Bengaluru Rural and Mandya districts say that doing away with LPG is not an option now, as most homes have removed traditional fireplaces and sources of firewood too have dwindled.

“More importantly, youth in the marriageable age do not get brides if there is no LPG connection at their home,” said Anasuya, a resident of Chikkenahalli village in Ramanagar district. “LPG is convenient and is also a status symbol,” she added.

Kunnamari Gowda in the same village, who had come for breakfast at a hotel, said, “We have an empty cylinder at home and my wife refused to cook from firewood collected for heating water. I am taking a parcel for her too.” He added, “I am planning to take a loan and book a cylinder. By the time I repay the loan, it will be time to book another cylinder. This is the case with all the poor in this village.”

Across manifestos

This election, the LPG cylinder has become a talking point and parties are using it as a symbol to depict the rising prices affecting lower income families. While the Janata Dal (Secular) has announced five free cylinders annually, the Congress has announced a ₹2,000 monthly incentive under their Gruha Lakshmi guarantee to cover LPG expenses. Surprisingly, even the ruling BJP, which remained mute to earlier agitations against price rise, has announced three free cylinders annually to coincide with three festivals.

Across Karnataka, there are 1.78 crore LPG connections, of which the Prime Minister’s Ujwala Yojana connections amount to 37.57 lakh. The average booking in Karnataka in 2022-2023 was 6.49 cylinders per connection and on an average, 97.77 lakh cylinders were sold every month. The coverage of LPG connections is 114% in Karnataka, data shows.

The LPG dealers association in Karnataka complains of reduced or deferred bookings due to high cost. “Many households have moved to an electrical source of energy for cooking needs. Earlier, gas geysers were one of the cheaper ways to heat water, many households have shifted to electricity geysers now,” a source in the association said. He added that while the Ujwala scheme brought more families under LPG use, there were instances of families stopping its use after the first cylinder — which came free — got exhausted.

What the data says

However, the data provided by the Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) for LPG usage in Karnataka shows an year-on-year growth of 13.64 % — from 2.12 lakh metric tonnes in 2021-2022 to 2.4 lakh metric tonnes in 2022-2023 for the Prime Minister’s Ujwala Yojana. The overall domestic cylinder sales went up by 3.15% from 16.14 lakh metric tonnes in 2021-2022 to 16.65 lakh metric tonnes in 2022-2023, as per IOC data.

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