Only 48.3 per cent of the rural households used LPG, while the figures were much higher in urban areas at 86.6 per cent, according to a NSO report.
About 61 per cent of total households in India used liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) for cooking in India in 2018, according to the latest National Statistical Office (NSO) survey report.
Last year, the government had claimed around 90 per cent LPG penetration across the country by December 2018.
Only 48.3 per cent of the rural households used LPG, while the figures were much higher in urban areas at 86.6 per cent, according to the NSO’s 76th round survey on ‘Drinking Water, Sanitation, Hygiene and Housing Condition’ released on Saturday.
The survey was conducted for the period between July and December 2018.
To be sure, the NSO asked over 100,000 households across the country about their primary source of fuel.
Interestingly, 44.5 per cent of the houses in villages were still using firewood, crop residue and chip for cooking as their primary source of fuel, against 5.6 per cent in cities during 2018.
The survey highlighted that around 13 per cent households have received benefits related to LPG connections.
The National Democratic Alliance government claims that LPG penetration has reached 96.5 per cent in the country by October this year, touting one of its flagship schemes, Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY), as a major success.
According to the data by Petroleum Planning and Analysis Cell (PPAC), an arm of the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, LPG penetration stood at 89.5 per cent as of December 1, 2018.
Interestingly, 44.5 per cent of the houses in villages were still using firewood, crop residue and chip for cooking, against 5.6 per cent in cities during 2018.
The NSO has captured LPG connections for the first time in its survey, so comparison with the previous surveys was not possible.
The LPG usage by households was low in major states such as Odisha (32.6 per cent), Jharkhand (32.9 per cent), West Bengal (42.8 per cent), Rajasthan (48.1 per cent), Madhya Pradesh (48.3 per cent), and Uttar Pradesh (50.2 per cent).
Despite a huge push for the PMUY, launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in May 2016, about 11 per cent households reported receiving any benefits related to LPG connections in the past three years from when the survey was conducted.
Of those who got benefits from LPG scheme in the past three years (around 11 per cent), around 88 per cent households benefitted from the Ujjwala scheme.
“The NSO data captures the usage of LPG and the government claims the Ujjwala scheme to be a success based on the LPG connections.
"There are chances that a lot of people who took benefit from the Ujjwala scheme were unable to refill the cylinders due to financial constraints and hence were not using the LPG connection,” Jawaharlal Nehru University professor Vikas Rawal explained.
One major reason for low usage of LPG may have been higher prices during the time period of the NSO survey.
Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Dharmendra Pradhan said on Monday that around 87 per cent of PMUY beneficiaries "have returned for at least second refill."
He said that such beneficiaries have been offered swap facility of 5 kg cylinder against 14.2 kg cylinder "as per their requirement."
A senior oil marketing company official said the major difference could be owing to the definition of ‘penetration’.
“The problem lies within the definition of penetration. Though oil companies have penetration of marketing network to 96.5 per cent, not all the people who have access to it may be using it,” he said.
Another source said the gap in survey could be owing to the issue of primary fuel.
“Though many families have LPG, they may mention wood as primary fuel,” he said.
The three oil marketing companies - Indian Oil Corporation (IOC), Bharat Petroleum Corporation (BPCL), and Hindustan Petroleum Corporation (HPCL) - together have 273.6 million active LPG customers as of October, served by 24,127 LPG distributors.
This was for the first time that the NSO survey collected data on the benefits received to household from the government schemes for drinking water, sanitation, housing, electrification and LPG connection facilities.
The report cited that since the prime focus of the survey was not to estimate number of households, which benefitted from government schemes, “no second stage stratification of households was done in the sample design to capture sufficient number of households who received benefit from government schemes for each of the facilities of drinking water, sanitation, housing, electrification and LPG connection.”
The PMUY was launched to provide clean cooking fuel to poor households, especially in the rural areas by initially targeting deposit-free LPG connections to 80 million poor families.
The government has claimed the overall LPG penetration has moved up from 62 per cent in 2016 to over 95 per cent now.