The Want for Blue Fire

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No gas connections for villagers in Saundatti taluk of Belagavi district

Yellwama Shinghade, a homemaker, lives with her family in a small village called Ugargol, 20 km away from Saundatti Taluk in Belagavi district. She was refused a gas connection despite submitting necessary documents to the gas agency. Now, she uses firewood and fuel to cook food.

“I submitted all the documents to the gas agency for a gas connection in my house. Despite submitting the documents, I am not there on the eligibility list,” Yellwama, said.

She is responsible for most of the household chores. While she takes care of the family, she also looks after the ‘Kirana store’ her family runs in the village. Yellwama and her family would go out in nearby areas, twice a week, to collect wood from branches of trees. They use it to cook food and boil water every day.

“My wife and I come here twice a week to collect wood so that we do not spend money on buying wood from the sellers. I climb the tree every time and cut branches and my wife would collect the wood,” Raju Shinghade, Yellwama’s husband, said.

Villagers can avail gas connections at a subsidized rate under the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY)  and Mukhya Mantri Anila Bhagya Yojane (MMABY). While PMUY is sponsored by the Centre, MMABY is a state-sponsored scheme.

As of April 10, 2019, only 7,000 families and 1,000 families in the entire Belagavi district and Saundatti Taluk, respectively, have availed connections through Anil Bhagya scheme.

While under the Ujjwala scheme, nearly 6,000 families and 1,000 families have received gas cylinders in Belagavi district and Saundatti Taluk respectively.

Saundatti has a population of nearly 42,000, as per Census 2011 and most of the families in the town of Saundatti Taluk has availed gas connections. However, the villages saw a high percentage of people using wood and fuel in their houses.

According to the reports by Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY), over 28 lakh houses have been given gas connections under the scheme. The report also states that Chandigarh (88) ranks the lowest and Uttar Pradesh( 1,29,63,534) ranks the highest in terms of gas distribution under this scheme.

(Source: PMUY Website)

Women said that they find it difficult to breathe and see while they cook food on their ‘chulhas’. These women spend most of their time collecting wood, cow-dung, and fuel to cook food.

“It is a struggle for me to cook food in here. My eyes burn and I find it difficult to breathe while cooking,” explained, Yellwama.

The taluk has four gas agencies. They are responsible for the distribution of gas cylinders to all the villages. However, the gas agency owners said that the applicants do not produce proper documents and that is why most of their applications are rejected.

A World Health Organisation (WHO) report states that using firewood, coal, and fuel could not only have serious health implications on the women but also on her family members.

Dr. Saleem Mohammed, a general physician at the government hospital said that most often women do not go to the doctors and try to treat themselves. “It is important to treat people with respiratory diseases at an early stage to avoid chronic diseases like tuberculosis,” he said.

“In Belagavi district I have a target of 12,000 connections and I have achieved almost 50 to 60 percent of the target. With this, we are aiming to achieve the target of smoke-free Karnataka. Though the process of distribution under this scheme has been really slow, we are working on it and trying to distribute cylinders to the beneficiaries,” Deputy Director of Food and Civil Services, Belagavi, Saeda Afreen Ballary, said.

According to Clean Energy Access Network, piped natural gas, biogas, solar energy,  could be cost-effective alternatives to the old traditional method of cooking. These forms of cooking are not only cost-effective but also safeguards the health of a woman and her family.


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