About 85 per cent of Ujjwala beneficiaries in rural Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan still use earthen stoves (chulhas) for cooking, due to financial reasons. The indoor air pollution due to these earthen stoves can lead to infant deaths and harm child development. It also causes heart and lung diseases among adults, especially the women, cooking on these earthen stoves. It is disclosed in a new study by the Research Institute for Compassionate Economics (RICE).
The survey, conducted in late 2018, covered a random sample of 1,550 households in 11 districts of the four States.
It is noteworthy that the Ujjwala Yojna, launched in 2016. Under this scheme LPG connection was given by providing a free gas cylinder, regulator and pipe. Central government data shows that more than six crore households have benefited through this scheme. The RICE study shows that there has been a substantial increase in LPG ownership in all 4 states due to the scheme. Now 76 per cent of households has an LPG connection.
However, more than 98 per cent of these households also own an earthen stove. Surveyors found that only 27 per cent of households exclusively used the gas stove. Another 37 per cent used both the earthen stoves and the gas stove, while 36 per cent made everything on the earthen stoves.
According to study this trend is more acute among those who received an LPG connection from the government; almost 53 per cent exclusively used the earthen stoves, while 32% used both. Ujjwala beneficiaries are poorer than households who got LPG on their own. Refilling the cylinder is a greater fraction of their monthly consumption, and they may be less likely to get a refill immediately after a cylinder becomes empty. Most of the survey respondents agreed that it was easier to cook on a gas stove, but felt that food cooked on the earthen stoves especially roti was tastier. More than 86% felt that cooking on the earthen stoves was better for the health of those eating. A common belief was that eating food cooked on gas causes gas in the stomach. Therefore, awareness campaign among Ujjwala Yojna beneficiaries is necessary to change their behaviour.