One out of every four beneficiaries of the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana — a scheme aiming to make LPG gas cylinders available to rural and deprived households — either did not take any cylinders during the last financial year 2022-2023, or took just one refill.
The spike in LPG cylinder prices have made them an expensive proposition even for subsidised households; rates have almost doubled since 2018, hitting ₹903 per cylinder in March 2023 even after the ₹200 per cylinder subsidy offered to PMUY beneficiaries.
One in nine PMUY beneficiaries, or over 1.18 crore households, bought no refill cylinders at all last year. Another 1.51 crore beneficiaries bought only one refill cylinder, according to data from the three major gas companies — Indian Oil Corporation Limited (IOCL), Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL) and Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited (HPCL) — obtained via multiple Right to Information queries.
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According to RTI replies from IOCL, HPCL and BPCL, they provided LPG connections to 9.58 crore PMUY households till March 2023. Subsidies worth ₹6,664 crore were disbursed to such households by the three companies. The RTI query was filed by Madhya Pradesh-based activist Chander Shekhar Gaur.
On August 29, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced an additional subsidy of ₹200 for the 14.2 kg LPG cylinder for all consumers, a move targeted at appeasing women voters around Rakshabandhan.
In poll-bound Madhya Pradesh, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan made a verbal announcement during a political rally on August 27, promising to make LPG cylinders available for as low as ₹450, and to later make ‘permanent’ arrangements so that the rising prices do not pinch the masses.
Between January 2018 and March 2023, there was a whopping 82% spike in the rate of subsidised LPG cylinders. In January 2018, a household could purchase a subsidised cylinder for ₹495.64; by March 2023, the same cylinder cost ₹903. Factoring in the additional subsidy announced by the PM this week, this cylinder will now cost ₹703 for PMUY beneficiaries.
Low refill rate
The average PMUY beneficiary did not refill more than four LPG cylinders during 2022-23. According to the RTI replies, the per household consumption of PMUY beneficiaries for IOCL was 3.53 cylinder refills; for HPCL, it was 3.72 refills; and for BPCL, it was 4.02 refills. This is in sharp contrast to non-PMUY consumers, whose per household consumption of LPG cylinders was 6.67 refills.
According to data from the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, there are more than 31 crore domestic LPG consumers in the country, including the 9.58 crore PMUY beneficiaries.
A non-subsidised LPG cylinder of 14.2 kg cost ₹741 in January 2018. By March 2023, the price of the cylinder had increased by 49% to ₹1,103. As the recently announced ₹200 subsidy is applicable for all consumers, the LPG cylinder for non-PMUY households will now cost ₹903.
Of the 16.05 crore non-PMUY consumers of IOCL and HPCL, 72.35 lakh took no refill last year. A third of non-PMUY users, over 6.39 crore, took only one refill.
According to RTI replies, subsidies extended to select non-PMUY beneficiaries amounted to at least an additional ₹2,454.81 crore last year, according to the numbers made available by IOCL and HPCL. BPCL did not reply to this query.
“Subsidy is not the decision of the Oil Marketing Companies and the amount changes based on the difference between the Retail Selling Price (RSP) linked to international price of LPG and the subsidised cost to customer as decided by the government,” the RTI reply states.