Recently when Mohd Sadiq called his home to enquire about the well-being of the family from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, where he works with a private construction firm, he casually asked his younger brother “Any progress on village electrification” To which his brother replied, “The village is on the list and work is under progress, even he can keep a close watch on the progress by merely downloading a mobile app called Garv App. Recalling the many attempts made by people of Bela under Parihar block in Sitamarhi district of Bihar, for getting an electric pole erected, Sadiq said, “We tried hard, in fact at times villagers contributed money to get an electric pole erected but failed due to lethargic bureaucracy and corruption. Therefore, for us, an idea of seeing progress step by step on a mobile app is a pleasant surprise.”
In his 69th Independence Day speech on August 15, 2015, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that 18,500 villages which still have no electricity would be electrified within the next 1,000 days. To ensure transparency and providing real-time information about the project, the ministry of power launched a mobile app—Grameen Vidyutikaran App (Garv App)—last year in October. The app provides the status of electrification along with photographs of the electrical infrastructure with GPS coordinates and allows citizens to adopt a village, district or state for monitoring the progress. After adoption, they get a notification, if there is any change in the progress of adopted area. Similarly, the district magistrate and other officials can track the progress district-wise and state-wise.
How it has happened? Basically after the Prime Minister announced it in his speech, the ministry of power entrusted the task to one of its corporation, Rural Electrification Corporation (REC) as a nodal agency for monitoring of the project in mission mode to achieve the target within time. Accordingly, REC Power Distribution Company (RECPDCL), a wholly owned subsidiary of REC, appointed 309 Gram Vidyut Abhiyantas (GVA), who are basically young rural electrification engineers, at block and district level across the country to transparently monitor the progress. On an average 25-30 villages have been assigned to a GVA for monitoring and each GVA has to visit around 5-8 villages per week depending upon the geographic location. In order to assist the GVAs in ensuring transparency and expedite the electrification work, a mobile application “Garv” was launched.
The mobile app enables GVAs to update photographs of the electrical infrastructure along with GPS coordinates during their visit for monitoring the progress of electrification and map it with pre-defined milestones. As most of the unelectrified villages lack proper network connectivity, so it has been ensured that data can also be captured in ‘offline mode’ and get synced with the server after returning to network area. “This facilitates monitoring based on clearly defined targets, better coordination and resolution of implementation issues, enhanced transparency and helps disseminate information to all citizens,” SC Garg, additional CEO, Power Distribution Company Ltd told FE.
The mobile app provides a dashboard, which gives an overview of the electrification status of the 18,452 un-electrified villages of the country. It displays the number of milestones achieved, status of the progress state-wise, district-wise and village-wise. One can even track the names of contractors implementing the projects in any un-electrified village, date of award of project at the village level, number of villages visited till date by GVAs, visits undertaken in last seven days, villages electrified in past four weeks etc. “The app also has a feedback and suggestion link in the dashboard by which anyone can post suggestions and highlight the issue related to electrification of villages,” says Garg.
As per the latest figure on dashboard, so far over 7,000 villages have been electrified and about 10,000 yet to be electrified. Recently, some of the media reports highlighted discrepancy in the corporation claims about few villages which is un-electrified, yet has been counted as electrified on the app.
Senior officials say they rely on the data provided by the state governments, however now it is mandatory for GVAs to verify electrified villages before counting them.