The government’s rural electrification drive has not improved the situation ‘appreciably’ as many households in electrified villages continue to live without power, a recent Niti Aayog report said. Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his Red Fort address on August 15, 2015, had vowed to electrify 18,452 dark villages in the next 1,000 days – the deadline being May 1, 2018. Power Minister Piyush Goyal in May had said that out of 18,452 dark villages, 13,516 villages are electrified, 944 are uninhabited and remaining 3,992 villages would be electrified by May 1, 2018. But, the government think-tank said with nearly 304 million Indians without access to electricity, and about 500 million people still dependent on solid bio-mass for cooking, it may be acknowledged that the country has to still go a long way on securing its energy security objective.
“Studies have revealed that in spite of major strides made by the earlier schemes in providing connections and now, Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana (DDUGJY), the problem of electricity ‘access’ did not improve appreciably,” the Aayog has said in its draft National Energy Policy (NEP).
The think-tank also hit on flaw in the power ministry’s approach saying, “An inherent challenge in the process is ensuring the coverage of households as opposed to only villages”. “Several states with high electrification rates still have poor household electrification,” it added. Niti Aayog’s report assumes significance as the think- tank reports directly to its Chairman, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and its views shape the government’s policy.
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The Aayog further recommended that there is also a need to redefine the concept of ‘electrification’, as occurs in the DDUGJY to include stages of electrification in a village, with the village being deemed completely electrified if and only if all households of a village have a power connection, which witnesses reliable supply at least for a set number of hours. It also suggested that non-BPL households may also be offered support, albeit at a different level. “Innovative billing and metering practices will be offered to them to be able to pay in a staggered manner. “Adoption of DBT will meet the twin goals of curbing wasteful consumption and also deliver subsidy to the meritorious efficiently,” Niti Aayog suggested. Meanwhile, Niti Aayog has extended time period for comments on draft National Energy Policy till July 24, 2017.