In the latest report from Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), the mobile phone subscriber base in India recorded 6.71 per cent Year Over Year (YoY) growth to 980.81 million users in Q2 2015. But the access to electricity in Bihar, that has 89 per cent of rural population, is alarmingly low.
At a time when we are talking about Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s another ambitious initiative of ‘Digital India programme’, it is apposite to underscore that the huge chunk of poll-bound Bihar’s rural population indicated ‘kerosene’ as their elementary lighting source, revealed a collaborative study by Council on Energy, Environment and Water with the Department of Political Science, Columbia University, US, with support from the Shakti Sustainable Energy Foundation.
The study has indicated Bihar as the ‘worst performing’ states, including Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal which were also surveyed simultaneously. The evaluation of electricity access to these states was based on capacity, duration, reliability, quality, affordability, and legality.
But Bihar performs the poorest among the states surveyed in this study, when assessed for rural electricity access, according to the survey whose data indicates that only 20 per cent of the rural households use electricity as their primary source of lighting in Bihar. As compared to the Census (2011), the fraction of households reporting electricity as the primary source of lighting is nearly double. There has clearly been an improvement in the intervening five years.
However, these indicators are in stark contrast to reports indicating that 95.5 per cent of villages in Bihar are electrified, owing to the definition of village electrification followed by the rural electrification program.
Bihar, with an electricity access index of 8.1 has the lowest aggregated index among all the states surveyed.
The electricity access index for different administrative divisions in the state ranges from 5 to 12 (on a scale 0 to 100). The issue of poor access is prevalent across the state and not limited to specific pockets.
According to the survey, the analysis of the households in Tier 0 revealed that 55 per cent of these suffer from a lack of capacity, implying the absence of any source of electricity, be it grid, micro-grid, solar home system or even a solar lantern. The remaining households that are in Tier 0, despite possessing an electricity connection, suffer from issues such as poor reliability, low duration of supply, and/or poor quality of supply.
With five or more days of complete black-out in a month, more than a quarter of Tier 0 households are plagued by poor reliability of electricity. Similarly, 21 per cent of the households in this tier suffer from poor quality of electricity, captured by the number of days with high or low voltage supply. The duration of electricity supply is another impediment faced by households, with as many as 16 per cent of the households in this tier receiving electricity for less than 4 hours a day.
Reasons for lacking electricity access.
Majority of households chose to remain un-electrified due to several challenges that may coexist. The survey reveals that 43 per cent of rural households could not be electrified due to unavailability of infrastructure (power grid) in their vicinity, where as 44 per cent of them fear high cost to get electricity connection, 36 per cent believe high monthly expenses. The unreliable supply (42 per cent) and lack of awareness (27 per cent) are other major reasons for lacking electricity access in rural households.
Will Bihar be digitized?
Every political party is busy in announcing freebies to voters in Bihar but the question arises who is responsible for the grim condition of electricity in the poll-bound Bihar state? How the rural Bihar will be part of Digital India? Today we are talking about Digital Literacy Program and free wi-fi connections in all schools, but how will the schools in rural Bihar be connected with broadbands?
The students in rural Bihar sweat in classes during hot summer because there is no hope of electricity and fans in their classes.
It will be very challenging for BJP to execute Digital India program in rural Bihar in the coming days, as the aforementioned distressing data of Bihar bulldozes all the nine pillars of Modi’s ambitious campaign.