Life will never be the same again for Mangesh Raimal. Sitting on a makeshift bed at his modest home in Pimpalgaon, a remote village in Maharashtra’s Vidarbha region, the young mechanical engineering graduate has two big reasons to smile.
One, his mother, who spent most of her life cooking on smoke-filled chulhas, received her first cooking gas cylinder under the central government’s Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana, which provides LPG connections free of cost to women members of poor households. Two, he received a personal response from Prime Minister Narendra Modi to a letter he wrote expressing his gratitude for the scheme.
Mangesh says when he saw the joy on the face of his mother Devkabai, who had been coughing constantly from the smoke generated by the firewood, he realised the change the LPG cylinders have brought to the lives of countless others like her. And that, he says, prompted him to write to the Prime Minister.
The Prime Minister’s quick response surprised him, he says. In the letter, Modi wrote about how he shared the feelings of mothers who had been saved the trouble of cooking on earthen chulhas.
Noting how the life of Devkabai has brightened, the Prime Minister wrote, “The earthen chulhas, lit in crores of households in the country, cause great harm to the health of women. The rich can afford to have the better facilities. But it remains a distant dream for the women living below the poverty line. Efforts are being made through the Ujjwala scheme to realise this dream.”
Recalling the trouble his mother faced while cooking on the chulha, Mangesh says he had many arguments with her over the smoke, with Devkabai meekly responding that she could do nothing about it. Eventually, he says, when a gas agency was set up in the village, he persuaded his father Santosh to obtain a gas connection. He says he helped his mother overcome her initial inhibitions about the new method of cooking.
Mangesh says he conveyed his pride to the Prime Minister about how the Ujjwala scheme had reached 2.5 crore beneficiaries across the country.
Mangesh’s father Santosh Raimal says there was no alternative to the chulha earlier. “Mangesh’s mother used to cough a lot due to the smoke. There were also symptoms of asthma. I could not end her suffering but my son did,” says Santosh.
With his village located 20 km from Devli tehsil town, Mangesh hails from a poor farming family — their kitchen still has a thatched roof. After completing primary education in the village, Mangesh studied at the Navodaya Vidyalaya in Wardha, where he completed class 12. He went on to obtain his engineering degree from Yashwantrao Chavan Engineering College in Nagpur, where he now works for a private engineering firm.
Mangesh, who tracks issues on social media, says he had written a letter to the Prime Minister earlier, too, highlighting the difficulties caused to people during the demonetisation exercise. In that letter, he had suggested that post offices be linked with banks. Mangesh says Modi replied to that letter as well, mentioning that this proposal would be implemented soon. “It’s quite gratifying to know that the Prime Minister takes note of a common man’s letter,” he says.
Mangesh now hopes that the Prime Minister’s promise to double farm incomes becomes a reality.