India's state - run oil marketing companies (OMCs) are in the process of setting up 10, 000 new LPG, or cooking gas, distributorships in the country, parliament was informed on Monday.
"OMCs are in the process of setting up 10, 000 new LPG distributorships. As on February 1, 2016, there are 17, 543 LPG distributorships in the country, " Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan told the Lok Sabha in a written reply.
This is towards developing infrastructure for the government's recent scheme to cover a total of five crore below poverty line (BPL) households for ensuring universal coverage of cooking gas in the country.
In a major move to benefit Indian women from weaker sections of society, the union cabinet last week approved a Rs. 8, 000 crore scheme to give free cooking gas connections to women members of BPL households.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, while presenting the 2016 - 17 annual budget in the Lok Sabha last month, had announced the government will provide LPG connections to all poor households.
In connection with the government's "Give it Up" campaign on LPG subsidy, Pradhan on Monday said a sample survey of the 83 lakh people who have already surrendered their subsidy showed that people from the middle and lower classes are more willing to give up cooking fuel subsidy than rich customers.
The petroleum ministry took a sample size of 100, 000 people for the survey, and found that among them, only 3 percent had an annual income above Rs. 10 lakh, he said.
"We have a finite amount of subsidy to disburse. Who should benefit from this? Poor women have the first right over the resources of the country, " Pradhan said at a conference here on Empowering Women for Sustainable Development organized by Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations and not - for - profit organization TalentNomics.
He said the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana scheme will give priority to households from 400 districts in eastern Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and the northeast. The gas connections will be in the name of women and half of the officials from fuel retailing companies implementing the scheme will also be women, he said.
"We are also planning to give a cooking stove along with the gas connection to the women, " he added.