(Eds: adds details) Aurangabad (Maha), Mar 2 (PTI) Over a year after Prime Minister Narendra Modi handed Ayesha Shaikh a certificate making her 'Beneficiary No. 8 crore' of the Ujjwala scheme to provide LPG connections to poor women, she is now struggling to buy a cooking gas cylinder due to rising rates.
Born into a poor family in Aurangabad district, Ayesha (31) got married at an early age and has been living in Ajanta, around 400 km from Mumbai, for the past decade.
Her husband Rafiq Shaikh makes around Rs 200 a day collecting charity for a local religious institution, for which he gets a commission. They have five children, between the ages of 6 and 13, and pay Rs 700 as rent for the room.
Modi on September 7, 2019 handed her an Ujjwala certificate, making her the 'Beneficiary No. 8 crore' of the country-wide scheme to provide LPG connections to women from Below Poverty Line (BPL) category.
'The cost of an LPG cylinder has exceeded my room rent now. I pay Rs 600 in rent whereas the price of the cooking gas cylinder has crossed Rs 700. What should we do? Should we pay for the gas cylinder or take care of the household expenses?' Shaikh told a TV channel.
The new gas connection had proved to be a boon for her as it spared her the labour of gathering firewood for her earthen stove. She had also started spending some more time with her children.
However, the frequent hike in the rates of cooking gas seems too much for Shaikh.
On Monday, cooking LPG price went up by Rs 25 per cylinder across all categories, including subsidised fuel and those availed by Ujjwala scheme beneficiaries - the fourth increase in rates in around a month.
A 14.2-kg cooking gas cylinder now costs Rs 828 in Aurangabad while the rate of a 19-kg commercial gas cylinder is Rs 1,642, a gas agency official said.
'We had received the new gas connection for free.
After using the cylinder for a month, we failed to refill it.
After one month, we compromised on our room rent and somehow managed to buy the gas cylinder,' Shaikh said.
She said her room owner asked her family members to vacate as they failed to pay the monthly rent.
'We then stayed at our sister's place,' she said.
Another Ujjwala scheme beneficiary Mandabai Pable, who hails from Lohgaon in Aurangabad district, is also struggling to buy the cylinder for cooking gas.
'Cooking gas cylinder has become dearer. I and my husband cannot afford it now. We live in agriculture fields and have to ask others to get the cylinder for us by paying extra money,' she said. PTI AW NSK VT VT VT