In recent times, the popular update from the Ministry of Power seems to be the status of rural electrification. It gets trendy on the social media with both the minister and the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) posting regular updates. Electrification in India is a long standing issue, successive governments have tried and failed but this run looks promising.
So, whats the sudden excitement and vigour in electrification all about?
On Aug 15, 2015, PM Narendra Modi declared that all the un-electrified villages in India will be electrified within 1000 days. A declaration such as that on the Indian Independence day signalled two things. First, even after 68 year of Independence we had villages that were not electrified yet. Second, India is keen to set aggressive targets and move forward, a move that is reminiscent to the White and Green revolutions in India which in planning terms means we could set targets that are in fact shorter than the 5 year period.
The development of electricity infrastructure
Hydro power plants were the source of power for the first towns. Bangalore is widely acclaimed to get the first public electricity network although a distribution company in Calcutta claims otherwise. The often cited view of how electricity infrastructure was built in India is of the prominence of getting electricity delivered to local industries. The next priority was to get electricity to the cities and only in the 1970s the rural households began to receive electricity. Interestingly, from then until now electrification in villages revolved around the need to empower a big population or provide electricity access to enable them run irrigation pump sets which is considered to be a major contributor to the economy.
The definition of village electrification is still perplexing. As per the latest guideline (2004), 10% of village households and community centre electrification counts as a village being electrified. But, under the Deendayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana (DDUGJY) under which the GARV programme operates has brought more clarity into the village electrification programme.
The status of electrification
As of the official website which is based on the census data, there are 18,452 un-electrified villages as on April 1, 2015. The GARV (Grameen Vidyutikaran) platform is the Govt.’s one stop solution to track the progress of this project. The current electrification programme is different from its predecessors by providing a sense of structure and clarity. The entire process of electrifying a village is split into 12 sub tasks. A village is considered electrified only if it fulfills the 12 tasks.
The platform also provides contact details of local village technicians or Grameen Vidyut Abhiyanta (GVA) as the project calls it. It has been one of the highlights in the project. It ticks a few boxes by providing both credibility to the process and also a few job opportunities to the local villagers.
The ministry releases updates on this project by providing snapshot of the platform which by the way is available on iStore, Android and even windows. Looks like a high stake challenge.
Not without controversies
The programme just like any other government scheme has got its share of criticism. While the programme has been hailed in the international media like the Guardian, it has not managed to turn foes to friends back home. A recent report in one English daily has managed to pick up villages and find discrepancy in the reality and what is being claimed by the government.
Irrespective of whether the programme is being claimed a success or called a gimmick I personally feel there is definite progress in village electrification in India. For info and to stay updated on the project follow GARV.