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Editorials/Opinions Analyses for UPSC 09 December 2021

Contents

  1. High LPG prices are scorching the air pollution fight
  2. Low tobacco tax, poor health

High LPG prices are scorching the air pollution fight

Context:

The price of LPG refills has risen by more than 50% to over ₹900 per cylinder in November 2021 compared to around ₹600 over 2020.

Relevance:

GS-III: Environment and Ecology (Environmental Pollution and degradation, Conservation of Environment and Ecology), GS-II: Social Justice and Governance (Welfare Schemes, Government Policies & Interventions)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About the Increasing burden of LPG prices
  2. Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW) Study
  3. Clean Energy Drive & Concerns
  4. About Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY) – 1
  5. Why was PMUY Necessary?
  6. About PMUY-II
  7. Survey findings on Success and deficiencies in PMUY-I Implementation
  8. Way Forward

About the Increasing burden of LPG prices

  • The price of LPG refills has risen by more than 50% over the past year. Also, the government has discontinued the refill subsidies since May 2020.
  • At the current refill prices, an average Indian household would have to spend around 10% of its monthly expense on LPG to meet all its cooking energy needs.
  • Due to the loss of incomes and livelihoods during the novel coronavirus pandemic, the ability of households to afford LPG on a regular basis has taken a further hit.
  • The use of solid fuels for cooking comes with a major environmental cost. It is a leading contributor to air pollution and related premature deaths in India. Global Burden of Disease Study 2019 estimated around 600,000 premature deaths every year in India.

Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW) Study

  • As per India Residential Energy Survey (IRES) 2020, LPG has become the most common cooking fuel in India. Nearly 85% of Indian homes have an LPG connection and 71% use it as their primary cooking fuel.
  • But in the present situation, nearly half of all Indian households will have to at least double their cooking energy expense to completely switch to LPG at current prices.
  • The study estimates further suggest that an effective price of ₹450 per LPG refill could ensure that the average share of actual household expenditure on cooking energy matches the pre-pandemic levels.

Clean Energy Drive & Concerns

  • LPG has become the primary cooking fuel in around 70% households in India with many efforts like Ujjwala Scheme, consumption-linked subsidies and gradual strengthening of the LPG distributorship.
  • However, the prevalent use of biomass as a primary cooking fuel is still continuing.
  • The practice of biomass usage is observed in both rural and urban areas. States such as Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha and West Bengal are major contributors in biomass use.
  • Free biomass, high LPG prices and lack of home delivery of LPG refills reduce the efficacy of LPG as a reliable and affordable proposition.
  • The timely availability of LPG for all consumers is an added area of concern in both rural and urban areas.

About Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY) – 1

  • The Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY) is a government scheme launched in 2016 which envisages the distribution of 50 million LPG connections to women below the poverty line.
  • PMUY is a scheme of the Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas.
  • There are 27.87 Crore active LPG consumers in the country, with the PMUY beneficiaries accounting for over 8 crores.
  • Advantages of PMUY:
    • Providing LPG connections to BPL households will ensure universal coverage of cooking gas in the country.
    • This measure will empower women and protect their health.
    • It will reduce drudgery and the time spent on cooking.
    • It will also provide employment for rural youth in the supply chain of cooking gas.

Why was PMUY Necessary?

  • As per the estimates of the World Health Organisation (WHO), about 5 lakh deaths in India occurred due to unclean cooking fuel.
  • These deaths were caused mostly due to non-communicable diseases including heart disease, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lung cancer.
  • Providing LPG connections to families below the poverty line will ensure universal coverage of cooking gas in the country.
  • The scheme can be a tool for women empowerment in that LPG connections and clean cooking fuel can reduce cooking time and effort, and in most of India, cooking is a responsibility shouldered solely by women.
  • The scheme also provides employment to the rural youth in the supply chain of cooking gas.

About PMUY-II

  • The PMUY-II is aimed to provide maximum benefit to the migrants who live in other states and find it difficult to submit address proof.
  • Now they will only have to give “Self Declaration” to avail the benefit.
  • The scheme provides a financial support of Rs 1600 for each LPG connection to the BPL households.
  • Along with a deposit-free LPG connection, Ujjwala 2.0 will provide the first refill and a hotplate free of cost to the beneficiaries.
  • Under Ujjwala 2.0, an additional 10 million LPG connections will be provided to the beneficiaries. Government has also fixed a target of providing piped gas to 21 lakh homes in 50 districts.

Survey findings on Success and deficiencies in PMUY-I Implementation

Positives of PMUY-I

  • PMUY-I had overshot its target of giving 80 million free LPG connections according to data from the National Sample Survey conducted by the National Statistical Office (NSO).
  • The data also shows that in the last four years (2016-2020), PMUY connections account for 71% of growth in total domestic LPG connections in the country.
  • The fact that almost 70% of PMUY beneficiaries are from the bottom 40% of the households, shows the scheme has been remarkably successful in reaching poor households.

Negatives of PMUY-I

  • A unit level analysis of data from the NSO shows that 43% of PMUY beneficiaries were not using LPG for cooking. The share of beneficiaries not using LPG for cooking increases down the economic ladder.
  • The 2018 NSO survey findings show that the average monthly per capita expenditure (MPCE) of the poorest 20% households in India was Rs. 1,065 – which means a cylinder refill costing Rs. 500 would comprise nearly half of a household’s MPCE.
  • Even though PMUY and subsidised LPG consumers receive a subsidy on refill, they have to make the full payment upfront before the subsidy amount is transferred back to them.
  • The high cost of gas refills, the CAG report said, has become a constraint in ensuring sustained usage of LPG.
  • To be sure, beneficiaries under the PMUY scheme could also opt for a 5 kg cylinder in place of a routine 14.2 kg cylinder.
  • The government also allowed swapping the bigger cylinder with the smaller one to make it easier for consumers to get a refill.

Way Forward

  • The income-based exclusion limit for LPG subsidy could be reduced to bring deserving beneficiaries under the umbrella.
  • Households owning a non-commercial four-wheeler vehicle can be excluded in order to ensure eligible beneficiaries.
  • At the earliest, the subsidy must be resumed for the households granted LPG connections under the Ujjwala scheme.
  • LPG supply chain, especially in states with a large number of Ujjwala connections and slum population should be strengthened on a priority basis. Higher incentives for rural distributors could play a crucial role in improving the LPG supply chain.
  • The Government can encourage and incentivise households to supply locally available biomass to Compressed Biogas production plants being set up under the Sustainable Alternative Towards Affordable Transportation scheme.
  • The government could diversify local income and livelihood opportunities through such incentives and also encourage the use of LPG on a regular basis.

-Source: The Hindu


Low tobacco tax, poor health

Context:

In India, 28.6% of adults above 15 years and 8.5% of students aged 13-15 years use tobacco in some form or the other, which makes the country the second largest consumer of tobacco in the world.

Relevance:

GS-II: Social Justice and Governance (Issues related to Children, Government Policies and Initiatives), GS-II: Polity and Constitution (Statutory Bodies)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Issues with the use of tobacco in India
  2. About Global Youth Tobacco Survey (GYTS-4)
  3. Highlights of Global Youth Tobacco Survey (GYTS-4)
  4. Steps taken in India to reduce tobacco usage
  5. What are the recommendations of experts regarding tobacco use?

Issues with the use of tobacco in India

  • Tobacco use is known to be a major risk factor for several non-communicable diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and chronic lung diseases.
  • Smokeless tobacco contains many cancer-causing toxins and its use increases the risk of cancers of the head, neck, throat, oesophagus and oral cavity (including cancer of the mouth, tongue, lip and gums) as well as various dental diseases.
  • India also bears an annual economic burden of over ₹1,77,340 crore on account of tobacco use. Despite these concerns, India does not tax much to discourage the consumption of tobacco.
  • At the current rate, India may not be able to achieve a 30% tobacco use reduction by 2025 as envisaged in the National Health Policy of 2017 by the Government of India.

India doesn’t tax enough on tobacco

  • The tax structure has not incorporated any added tax on tobacco products except a few minor changes introduced in the 2020-21 Union Budget.
  • In the pre-GST period, State governments used to regularly raise value-added tax (VAT) on tobacco products. This is not the case after the introduction of GST. It effectively means some current smokers smoke more now and some non-smokers have started smoking.

About Global Youth Tobacco Survey (GYTS-4)

  • The Global Youth Tobacco Survey (GYTS-4) was conducted in 2019 by the International Institute for Population Sciences (IIPS) under the MoHFW.
  • The survey was designed to produce national estimates of tobacco use among school going children aged 13-15 years at the state level and Union Territory (UT) by sex, location of school (rural-urban), and management of school (public-private).
  • The survey’s objective is to provide information on tobacco use, cessation, second-hand smoke, access and availability, exposure to anti-tobacco information, awareness and receptivity to tobacco marketing, knowledge, and attitudes.

Highlights of Global Youth Tobacco Survey (GYTS-4)

  • India has the second largest number (268 million) of tobacco users in the world and of these 13 lakh die every year from tobacco-related diseases.
  • Nearly 27% of all cancers in India are due to tobacco usage.
  • There has been a 42% decline in tobacco use among 13-15 year-old school going children in the last decade.
  • Nearly one-fifth of the students aged 13-15 used any form of the tobacco product (smoking, smokeless, and any other form) in their life.
  • Use of any form of tobacco was higher among boys. Prevalence of tobacco use among boys was 9.6% and among girls was 7.4%.
  • Tobacco use among school going children was highest in Arunachal Pradesh and Mizoram and lowest in Himachal Pradesh and Karnataka.
  • More than 29% of students in India were exposed to second-hand smoke.
  • 38% of cigarettes, 47% of bidi smokers and 52% of smokeless tobacco users initiated the use before their tenth birthday.
  • The median age of initiation to cigarette and bidi-smoking, and smokeless tobacco use were 11.5 years, 10.5 years and 9.9 years respectively.
  • 52% of students noticed anti-tobacco messages in the mass media and 18% of students noticed tobacco advertisements or promotions when visiting points of sale.
  • 85% of school heads were aware of the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA), 2003 and 83% of schools were aware of the policy to display ‘tobacco-free school’ boards.

Steps taken in India to reduce tobacco usage

  1. Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act, (COTPA) 2003: replaced the Cigarettes Act of 1975 (largely limited to statutory warnings- ‘Cigarette Smoking is Injurious to Health’ to be displayed on cigarette packs and advertisements. It did not include non-cigarettes). The 2003 Act also included cigars, bidis, cheroots, pipe tobacco, hookah, chewing tobacco, pan masala, and gutka.
  2. Adoption of WHO FCTC: which is the first international treaty negotiated under the auspices of the WHO. It was developed in response to the globalization of the tobacco epidemic and is an evidence-based treaty that reaffirms the right of all people to the highest standard of health.
  3. National Tobacco Quitline Services (NTQLS): with the potential to reach a large number of tobacco users with the sole objective to provide telephone-based information, advice, support, and referrals for tobacco cessation.
  4. Promulgation of the Prohibition of Electronic Cigarettes Ordinance, 2019: which prohibits Production, Manufacture, Import, Export, Transport, Sale, Distribution, Storage and Advertisement of e-Cigarettes.

What are the recommendations of experts regarding tobacco use?

  • In order to prevent children and youth from initiating tobacco use at an early age, the experts have urged the government to:
    • Increase the legal age of sale of tobacco products to 21
    • Impose a comprehensive ban on tobacco advertising
    • Promote and ban sale of single sticks of cigarettes/bidis
  • It is scientifically established that if a person is kept away from tobacco till the age of 21 and above, there is a very high probability that he/she will remain tobacco-free for the rest of his life.
  • Several countries had increased the minimum age of sale of tobacco products to 21 and banned sale of single cigarettes to control their easy accessibility and affordability to youth.
  • Pre and post-implementation data show increasing the tobacco age to 21 will help to prevent young people from ever starting to smoke and to reduce the deaths, disease and health care costs caused by tobacco use.
  • Countries are increasingly recognising that almost all those who become long term tobacco users begin tobacco use while they are adolescents.

-Source: The Hindu

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