Rural Electrification; Myth and Reality
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Rural Electrification; Myth and Reality

Author: Thamanna Abdul Latheef   03 Apr 2018

Rural Electrification; Myth and Reality

India now generated around 1,160.1 billion units of electricity in the financial year 2017, up 4.72% from the previous year and it is the third largest producer of electricity. India is behind only China which produced 6,015 terawatt hours (TWh. 1 TW = 1,000,000 megawatts) and the US (4,327 TWh) and is ahead of Russia, Japan, Germany, and Canada.

While talking about the biggest achievement, the nation must consider those villages which are still in dark. Surprisingly in India, only 10% of homes in a village are required to actually have electricity for a village to be declared electrified by the ministry of power.

The mission of electrifying villages

Of those homes that have been electrified, quality of power is often an issue. Three-quarters of electrified homes in rural Uttar Pradesh received electricity for less than 12 hours a day. As many as 73% of the 18,452 villages that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government identified for electrification in 2015 now have power supply, but only 8% of these villages had all their households electrified, according to the government’s own data.

Among the 43.5 million below-poverty-line households identified to be provided with free electricity connections under the Deendayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana, 23.5 million (59%) have been covered, and many geographically remote locations have been connected with off-grid sources of power. However, this kind of basic energy access does not provide larger benefits to recipients, and is not a substitute for grid connections, studies show.

Besides, 25% (45 million) of rural households across the country still have no electricity. In Uttar Pradesh, Nagaland, Jharkhand and Bihar, fewer than 50% of rural households have electricity, three years after the BJP was sworn in at the Centre having promised: “electricity for all”.

Households remain without power

A village is considered electrified if electricity is provided in public places such as schools, panchayat offices, health centres, dispensaries and community centres, and at least 10% of households, according to the criteria used by the power ministry since October 1997. So, a village can be considered electrified if 90% of its households do not have electricity.

“100% village electrification by May 2018”

In 2014, when the BJP came to power, India had the world’s largest energy access deficit in terms of electricity–270 million people, accounting for just under a third of the world’s deficit, according to the World Bank’s 2017 State of Electricity Access report.

“Certain segments of India have been historically disadvantaged. Due to a lopsided development approach and skewed allocation of resources, they continue to lag behind the rest of the country in socioeconomic indicators,” the BJP had said in its manifesto for the 2014 general election, promising to ensure equitable growth and development by “Ensuring a basic level of Infrastructure to all – Home, Electricity, Water, Toilets and Access”.

In the BJP’s third year, 2016-17, 6,015 villages were electrified, five times more than in 2013-14, according to this May 19, 2017, press release by the ministry of power, but fewer than the villages electrified the year before in 2015-16.

Of the 4,492 villages that remained to be electrified at the end of March 2017, 2,268 were scheduled for grid connection, 2,196 for off-grid electrification because of geographical barriers, and 28 for electrification by state governments, according to data from the Central Electricity Authority. Most off-grid village projects are concentrated in states such as Arunachal Pradesh (958), Assam (357), Jharkhand (356) and Chhattisgarh (306).

During the Congress regime

The previous Congress-led government, under the Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojana (RGGVY, a rural electrification scheme), had connected 108,280 villages to the grid between 2005-06 and 2013-14. From 2014 to 2017, under the BJP’s rural electrification drive, 14,528 villages have been electrified. On average, the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government electrified 12,030 villages per year, while the BJP government has electrified 4,842–less than half the UPA’s average.

Schemes and Policies

As part of the Deendayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana, the BJP’s rural electrification scheme, the government had also proposed to provide free electricity connections to over 43.5 million rural households below the poverty line (BPL, with the poverty line set at Rs 816 per capita per month for rural areas).

As of April 2017, 25.68 million BPL households (58.9%) were provided free electricity connections, according to this report by the power ministry. Between 2005, when the RGGVY was launched, and March 2013, a total of 20.5 million BPL households were provided free electricity connections.

However, the connection these households get is often unreliable, and the two free-of-cost LED bulbs they are entitled to are often siphoned off to the black market by unscrupulous sub-contractors.

As per the Modi government’s promise, all of India’s villages could be electrified by May 2018. However, it remains to be seen how many households will actually have access to reliable electricity supply. Despite villages having an electricity connection, true energy access remains low in many states, marked by poor quality, reliability, and duration of supply. If the country is the third largest producer of electricity, why do poor people and rural population leading a dark life without electricity? why is the government unable to provide what they have promised?

By: Thamanna Abdul Latheef C

thamanna@molitics.in

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