New Delhi: This Union Budget Budget 2019, the NDA government’s flagship Ujjwala scheme is likely to get a boost with an eye on increasing access to cooking, or liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), to all the country’s households before the year-end.

As per reports, the Finance Minister is expected to first propose to complete the targeted 80 million connections under the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY) as part of 100-days agenda of the NDA government. So far, Ujjwala connections have reached the 71.9 million mark.

Further, in the coming months, another 10-20 million new LPG connections would be provided to cover all poor households, as part of a cabinet decision taken late last year.

Currently, about 93-94 per cent of the country’s households has access to cooking gas. However, the new measures are expected to increase access to 100 per cent of the country’s households.

The next phase would focus on providing LPG refill to all new connections, particularly by the poorer sections.

Under PMUY, gas connections are provided to below poverty line (BPL) families with a support of Rs 1,600 for each connection. The LPG connection is provided in the name of the female member of the family.

The sources said that along with increasing the targeted connections in PMUY, the Budget may allocate an additional Rs 2,000-3,000 crore for the scheme to complete the coverage of 100 per cent households.

Launched in May 2016, the PMUY was initially aimed at providing clean cooking fuel to 50 million women from poor households classified as eligible over a period of three years. A sum of Rs 8,000 crore was allocated for the scheme to start with.

However, given the success of the scheme, the then Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had in the 2018-19 Budget allocated an additional Rs 4,800 crore and increased the target to 80 million households.

In December, the Union Cabinet decided to cover all poor households that would further increase the number of new connections by 1-2 crore.

The government is also toying with the idea of promoting under PMUY the use of smaller 5 kg LPG cylinders so that refill rate increases. For this, a separate subsidy plan has already been worked out under the existing direct benefit transfer (DBT) scheme.

The average LPG cylinder refill rate under Ujjwala is a pathetic 3 per annum while the national average stands close to seven refills in a year.

A Petroleum Ministry study shows that the high cost of refills for a 14.2 kg cylinder is one of the main reasons why lower number of LPG cylinders were being used by BPL families. With 5 kg cylinders, refills can be had at one third the price of a regular cylinder. This will make it easier for families to increase the year-round use of gas connections given under Ujjwala.

(With IANS inputs)