PM Modi also took a dig at the previous governments saying when he was young, the rich and influential people would get the LPG connections and tell the poor that it was unsafe to have a gas line at home.
"When we would ask them why they have LPG in their homes, they were silent," he said.
Interacting through video-conference with some women beneficiaries who received free cooking gas connections under the Ujjwala Yojana, a flagship welfare scheme aimed at increasing LPG coverage among the poor, the prime minister said 10 crore LPG connections have been given in the last four years as compared to 13 crore in six decades since independence.
PM Modi recalled his own childhood saying his mother struggled with smoke emitting from cooking on firewood or cow dung, and asserted that his government will increase coverage of clean fuel to 100 per cent households in the near future.
"Ujjwala Yojana has strengthened the lives of the poor, marginalised, Dalits, tribal communities. This initiative is playing a central role in social empowerment," PM Modi said.
PM Modi recalled that when he was young he had many Muslim neighbours.
The prime minister also recalled a character, Hamid, from Premchand's famous story Idgah. "The story is about young Hamid, who does not buy sweets or gifts during Id but buys a 'Chimta' so that his grandmother does not burn her hands while cooking. This continues to inspire me. If Hamid can do it, then why not the prime minister," he said, adding that his government had decided to expand the scheme to cover eight crore instead of earlier five crore families.
The Congress, however, countered the PM's narrative. "PM Modi made some tall claims on the Ujjwala Yojana today. What he didn't tell you is that the program is failing," the party posted on Twitter, along with a video.
PM Modi made some tall claims on the Ujjwala Yojana today. What he didn't tell you is that the program is failing. pic.twitter.com/oW0maiF2OZ- Congress (@INCIndia) May 28, 2018
"Over 100 million Indians still use kerosene for cooking instead of LPG... while the first LPG cylinder is free, the second refill is not. Instead BPL (below poverty line) families are expected to buy it at near market rates making it unaffordable for most," it said.
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