Ujjwala beneficiaries used only 60% free cooking gas refills in 6 months

Three refills per eligible household would have meant 24 crore refills but oil companies received orders for only about 12 crore refills during April-June, following which the government extended the scheme by another three months through Septembe...

NEW DELHI: Poor families have used 60% of the 24 crore free cooking gas refills offered by the government in six months through September, signalling that affordability may not be the biggest factor for quicker adoption of the clean fuel by beneficiaries the Ujjwala scheme.

Following the onset of the pandemic and the lockdown in April, the government offered three free liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) refills to eight crore poor households. Money was transferred to customers’ bank accounts in advance with the hope that it would encourage them to order refills.

Three refills per eligible household would have meant 24 crore refills but oil companies received orders for only about 12 crore refills during April-June, following which the government extended the scheme by another three months through September. By September-end, total number of refills rose to about 14 crore, or 60% of 24 crore available refills.


Keen to figure out why consumers were unwilling to order the free refill, oil companies undertook a survey, which had revealing findings. Around 36% of those who have not availed free refills had used the advance for some other purpose while another 40% were frugal users and didn’t have an empty cylinder at home to order a refill, according to Gurmeet Singh, marketing chief at Indian Oil Corp, the nation’s largest cooking gas distributor.

The balance customers faced other problems, including difficulty with bank transactions, he added. Oil companies couldn’t transfer advances to several lakh Ujjwala customers due to the latter’s bank accounts not being linked to Aadhar or some other banking issues. So far, it seemed that affordability alone had kept gas consumption by Ujjwala customers low but lower intake of even free refills means many consumers are yet to appreciate the advantages of clean cooking, said an industry executive. “Policymakers need to design programmes to truly help shift consumer behaviour,” he said. The government has spent nearly Rs 13,000 crore to give 8 crore poor households free cooking gas connections. This has helped solve the problem of access to clean fuel but its usage remains an area of concern.
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