In Sitaharan villagers fall back on traditional chullah
SITAHARAN (BUDGAM): In the remote villages in nature’s lap, people use traditional wood stoves to cook their meals, despite many having received LPG connections under GoI’s PMUY scheme.
For Shaista, a housewife in Sitaharan Budgam nothing seems to have changed, despite advances in technology.
“Women here wake up early in the morning, and start daily chorus. We prepare meals on the chullah for families,” Shaista said.
Her eyes burn and she coughs due to smoke billowing out of the chullah, as she lights the firewood. The smoke from the chullah seem to reflect her anger and helplessness.
Gulzar Ahmad, a local resident said that although schemes like Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojna (PMUY) were introduced by the Government of India to provide free LPG connections to below poverty line households, but it has failed to ensure a smoke free life.
While the government hails its achievements by counting rise in the number of LPG connections, the residents said, lack of gas refills and its prohibitive cost prevents the poor households from adopting it permanently.
“Where do we get money to buy cooking gas when we don’t have a roof over our head,” Shaista said.
A brief survey reveals that of almost 1250 households, the majority of poor households took a stove and the first LPG cylinder on a loan of around 1500 offered with the scheme.
They have to pay the market price for LPG cylinders till the loan is repaid. It’s tough for these families to pay the subsidized price, let alone buy the cylinder at market price of 900. That is around 400 more than the current price.
The poor households fall back on their chullahs, which are not only laborious, but its smoke adversely impacts the health of users, mostly women and children.
Doctors say many women complain of respiratory tract infections, eye irritation and bronchitis.
“It is the outcome of the smoke inhaled by them while cooking. The half burnt wood produces carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide that hinders the normal respiratory process. If these gases are inhaled in large quantities and for the prolonged period, it can cause acute asthma and severe eye problems,” Dr Mudasir said.
“Use of firewood is the primitive means of cooking but unfortunately it is still carried on in some remote villages of the district. It puts forests on the verdict of extinction. Traditional chulahs (TCs) are becoming more and more hazardous to Kashmir as a society and rural Kashmir in particular, having both human and environmental consequences,” said Dr Mushtaq Ahmad.
He added that women responsible for burning and managing the tradional chullah become the first victims, followed by children, who often are in mother’s lap.
“Unless and until these (Ujjwala) schemes are implemented properly at the ground level it is going to cost us both monetarily and in terms of health as well,” he added.