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The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, chaired by the Prime Minister  Shri Narendra Modi, has approved Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana - Scheme for  Providing Free LPG connections to Women from BPL Households. Under the scheme,  Rs 8000 crore has been earmarked for providing five crore LPG connections to  BPL households. The Scheme provides a financial support of Rs 1600 for each LPG  connection to the BPL households. The identification of eligible BPL families  will be made in consultation with the State Governments and the Union  Territories. This Scheme would be implemented over three years, namely, the FY  2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19.

This is the first time in the history of the country that the Ministry of  Petroleum and Natural Gas would implement a welfare scheme benefitting crores of women belonging to the poorest households.

In our country, the poor have limited access to cooking gas (LPG). The  spread of LPG cylinders has been predominantly in the urban and semi-urban areas with the coverage mostly in middle class and affluent households. But  there are serious health hazards associated with cooking based on fossil fuels.  According to WHO estimates, about 5 lakh deaths in India alone due to unclean  cooking fuels. Most of these premature deaths were due to non-communicable  diseases such as heart disease, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease  and lung cancer. Indoor air pollution is also responsible for a significant  number of acute respiratory illnesses in young children. According to experts,  having an open fire in the kitchen is like burning 400 cigarettes an  hour.

Providing LPG connections to BPL households will ensure universal coverage  of cooking gas in the country. This measure will empower women and protect  their health. It will reduce drudgery and the time spent on cooking. It will  also provide employment for rural youth in the supply chain of cooking gas.

In this direction, Finance Minister in Budget speech on 29.2.2016 had  announced a budgetary provision of Rs. 2000 crore for 2016-17 to provide deposit free LPG connections to 1.5 crore women belonging to the Below Poverty  Line (BPL) families. Further, the Budget announced that the Scheme will be  continued for two more years to cover 5 crore households.