Having covered 12,145 villages so far, the Rural Electrification Corporation is confident of providing power to all settlements within the deadline set by Modi
THE Narendra Modi government may be on track to achieving what has eluded India in almost 70 years of independence—electrification of all rural settlements in the country. If data from the Rural Electrification Corporation (REC), the nodal agency for the Deendayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana (DDUGJY), is to be taken at face value, as many as 12,145 villages spread over 19 states have been electrified in 510 days. For those who came in late, Prime Minister Modi had in August, 2015 promised to electrify the leftover 18,452 villages in 1,000 days or by May 1, 2018. Launched for the purpose, DDUGJY subsumed earlier schemes like the Rajiv Gandhi Gramin Vidyutikaran Yojana.
Of the 5,559 villages that are yet to be electrified, a majority are in north-eastern states like Arunachal Pradesh (1229), and Assam (945), as also eastern states like Odisha (848), Jharkhand (858), Bihar (570) and Chhattisgarh (464). These settlements are land-locked or face naxalite issues, though REC is confident of achieving the target.
“All the low-hanging fruit have been plucked; those left now are mostly in land-locked flood-prone areas, and inaccessible mountainous terrain where movement is comparatively difficult. Also, some of these states face naxalism. But we are confident of completing the job within the targetted 1,000 days,” says SK Gupta, Director Technical, REC.
In terms of household connectivity, 4.81 crore households were without electricity till March 2, 2017, according to Garv, the live web application managed by REC and the Ministry of Power.
“Under the new scheme, we didn’t just set up infrastructure like poles and lines but also ensured household connectivity, sufficient metering, feeder segregation, grid extensions and off-grid facilities,” says an official involved in the project.
However, reports from the ground level have contradicted some of these claims. The media has highlighted cases from states such as Uttar Pradesh, Assam, Jharkhand, and Arunachal Pradesh where discoms have set up the infrastructure but failed to provide power.
Dinesh Arora, Executive Director (DDUGJY) REC, agrees that there are issues even as he points out that discoms had been asked to appoint third-party agencies for financial audits, ensuring quality work and proper use of funds. This was besides REC quality monitors and National quality monitors overseeing the scheme.
“We have appointed gram abhiyantas who visit these villages and collect information at the ground level. Besides, the online Garv platform is very user friendly and enables people in villages to raise issues,” Arora says.
However, a senior consultant with a foreign advisory firm opines that meeting the minimum criterion of electrifying 10% of households, as the REC is doing, is not enough. Even after electrification of all villages is achieved, many settlements could fall back into the unelectrified category as more people move into them or if the minimum criterion is breached. “Hence, there should be quarterly and half-yearly evaluation which is not happening as of now,” he says.
On reports of villages having the infrastructure but no electricity, a senior Uttar Pradesh Power Corporation Ltd (UPPCL) official says such instances had to do with daily maintenance issues, with electricity not being supplied after the infrastructure was laid due to subsequent energisation of lines. However, he declined to comment on compliance issues like third-party audit and metering of households.
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To a question on Uttar Pradesh claiming that it was allocated only R4,000 crore, as against a requirement of R6,000 crore under the plan, Arora points out that the All India third-party report had cited 80,000 discrepancies in Uttar Pradesh, the maximum among states. “We have asked them to rectify the discrepancies and start complying with the scheme guidelines, which they have begun doing. In other states, the compliance happened even before we disbursed the money.”
– Story by Vikas Srivastava