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The Modi government would spend major portion of the Rs 2,000- crore Budget outlay for providing LPG to households below poverty line in the eastern states such as Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Odisha and Assam.
A senior official in the finance ministry told FE that the nodal petroleum ministry has proposed a detailed road map for the scheme aimed at protecting 5 crore rural households from the health hazard of using firewood or dung as fuels for cooking.
“A large part of the funds (announced in the Budget) would be earmarked for the eastern states,” the official said.
Unveiling the LPG scheme for the poor, finance minister Arun Jaitley had said in his Budget speech, “This will benefit about 1 crore 50 lakh households below the poverty line in 2016-17. The scheme will be continued for at least two more years to cover a total of 5 crore BPL households.”
The focus on eastern states, despite the relatively higher incidence of poverty there, is also because of their political importance as far as the BJP is concerned, according to some analysts. West Bengal and Assam would be electing their state assemblies in April-May. The Election Commission has already announced implementation of model code of conduct in the run up to the polls.
An official from the petroleum ministry defended the higher spending in eastern states by citing the BPL data as per Tendulkar Committee. “The states such as Bihar, Odisha and West Bengal are leading when it comes to households below BPL,” the official said.
States such as Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh also have sizeable housholds below BPL. In line with the Budget announcement, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) has approved ‘Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana,’under which LPG connections to women from BPL households would be provided. Under the scheme, Rs 8,000 crore will be spent between FY17 and FY19.
Petroleum minister Dharmendra Pradhan told FE in a recent interview that the government would immediately roll out nearly 10,000 new LPG distributors.
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