You already know that prior to 2016, crores of Indian families, especially women members of those families, were forced to bear the effect of 400 cigarettes a day by cooking on smoky chullhas. Modi government rolled out the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana, and history was created within three years, as it gave LPG connection to more than 8 crore households. The overall LPG coverage that remained stuck at 55% since independence till 2014, zoomed past 90% in just 5 years.
How was all of this made possible? Here is a story you should know about the way the government used big data and technology to transfer the lives even in the interiors of India.
Those Women, This Woman
The smiling faces of women, mostly from rural India, depicts the success of Ujjwala. They got rid of hazardous smoke in the first place. The LPG connection under Ujjwala also freed them from the daily compulsion of searching for firewood. This made productive time available at the hands of womenfolk. So, how did the government ensure that these women spread across India become the beneficiaries of the scheme? The answer is, of course, through tech and data to systematically target the needy population by providing an LPG distribution Centre near them. Behind the facilitation of such a tech-oriented process too is a woman.
The Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas partnered with a data company Socialcops that dotted Indian villages, and assessed where the new distribution network should be laid to reach those in need of an LPG connection. 27-year Prukalpa Sankar is a co-founder of Socialcops, and played a significant role in the project.
Dotting Indian Villages with 10,000 New LPG Distribution Centres
Instead of setting up of various committees and causing an inordinate delay in the process, the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas (MoPNG) chose to tread the path of technology. It partnered with Socialcops to work on data intelligence, and told them that they needed to plan for 10,000 new LPG distribution centers. To achieve that objective, they needed to know all the areas which the existing 17,000 centers catered to. Thus, the first step was to get the existing 17,000 distributors to download an app and share their location coordinates. Socialcops, on their portal, illustrated how this task was conducted.
How the Data Tech System Worked Differently
Left entirely to the conventional process, certain people within the system would have questioned why one particular region should get these many connections, and pushed for distribution channels accordingly. However, partnering with a company that works in data and tech domain the scale helped to achieve rightful targeting of beneficiaries.
Socialcops and MoPNG identified villages that were more than 10 km away from the nearest LPG center. They then used data intelligence to identify which of the underserved villages had enough potential to support a new LPG center. The team used 64 lakh diverse data points belonging to the lakhs of villages to figure out where to open up each new LPG center to create the greatest impact.
(pic- A screen grab from Socialcops website, illustrating what data and tech can do to effective delivery)
The new centers needed to be in a place where it made business sense – because small entrepreneurs run it. But it would also need to be accessible from remote areas, because that is where the cylinders were needed. Along with this, it was ensured that the new centers were aligned with places like market, bank, ATM or some government office that villagers visit often, as only then would an LPG distribution center around it makes eminent sense. People would anyway come there and they would also get LPG work done as an aside.
Solving Other Hurdles on the Way
A dashboard to track all the applications for LPG cylinders was created. An analysis of the dashboard showed that lots of women were getting rejected by distributors. Socialcops and MoPNG found that it was happening because those women didn’t have bank accounts — a mandatory requirement for getting a connection. So, measures were taken to set up Jan Dhan Yojana camps in these areas to ensure that women got bank accounts in their name.
In another instance of how technology makes the delivery more effective, a step was adopted in which LPG mechanics were made to use an app to take pictures of the kitchens and upload them. The app was also made available in local languages too. The step enabled to find out the safety issues. For example, whenever it came to notice that a cylinder had been installed unsafely — on a wood surface, underneath a straw roof, etc., the surveyors sent back the mechanics to move the cylinder to safer spots.
Conclusion- Ujjwala is a Bundle of Many Accomplishments
The 8 crore LPG connections under Ujjwala is not just a number that marks one milestone; it tells many stories. Besides the immense health benefits, it also tells a story of a government which is forward looking in solving the problems by adopting technological paths. It also tells about opportunities that young tech entrepreneurs can bring in the lives of people by joining hands with government initiatives.
This story is a clear demonstration of the fact that this government is not just interested in numbers to make some sort of record; there is also a clear intent to make a comprehensive and sustainable impact on the lives of the people.