research institute for compassionate economics

The Wire bulletin covers r.i.c.e’s research on the solid fuel use and LPG ownership.

Written by Nazar Khalid on April 25th, 2019

The Wire covered r.i.c.e’s new research on the persistence of solid fuel use despite increases in LPG ownership[report runs from 00 to 4:30 mins]. Here are some points covered in the bulletin:

The Pradhanmantri Ujjawal Yojna is often presented as a grand success, particularly in the ongoing election season. Most beneficiaries under the scheme, however, are forced to use traditional chulha for cooking.

A new research study by r.i.c.e finds that over 85 per cent of Ujjawala beneficiaries’ resort to using the traditional chulha because of the financial burden involved in refilling the gas cylinder.

The study conducted in the second half of 2018 in Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh visited over 1550 households to understand more about the impact of Ujjawal scheme. These four states account for about 40 per cent of the total rural population of India.

Launched in 2016, the government provides a gas cylinder, regulator, and pipe for free, and gives loans to households for the stove and the gas in the first cylinder under the Ujjawala scheme. According to the central government, over 60 million families have benefitted from it; the current study found that 76 per cent of households in these parts of rural India have benefitted from this scheme. Yet, close to 98 per cent of households continue to keep both traditional chulha and gas stove.

The study asked households about what they(fuel source) used for cooking food items such as rice, roti(chapati), dal(pulses), vegetables, tea and [boiling] milk the day before the survey. Among the surveyed households, around 27 per cent reported to have used gas stove exclusively, 37 per cent reported using both gas stove and traditional chulha, and 36 per cent reported using the traditional chulha. Moreover, among Ujjawala beneficiaries, 53 per cent households reported using only traditional chulha, while 32 per cent used both chulha and gas stove.

Ujjawala beneficiary households are poorer, on average, compared to those who got (LPG) gas connection own their own. As a result, refilling the cylinder constitutes a greater fraction of their monthly consumption, thus making them less likely to do so. The study found that about 70 per cent of families spends nothing on solid fuels; even with the subsidy, the money spent on the gas cylinder is much higher compared to that on solid fuels.

Gender disparity plays an important role too. The work of cooking with solid fuels is performed by women, and they also play a major role in collecting/making solid fuels. Moreover, women’s task is usually seen to have a lower opportunity cost. Add to this the fact that women also have low status and are typically not economic decision-makers in the household. These factors likely contribute to the use of solid fuels, even among households that own LPG.