On the 29th of April, 2018, the government of India claimed that 100% rural electrification has been achieved in India, Leisang in Senapati district of Manipur being the last of the 597,474 villages to be electrified.
The claims of the government have been contested from many quarters. The opposition has said that the present government had only 18,000 villages to be electrified when it came to power in 2014. 97% of the work had been done during the tenure of the UPA. While the claims of the opposition maybe true, the progress in rural electrification augurs well for the Indian economy, beyond the political nitty-gritty of credit claims.
In 1947, only about 1,500 Indian villages were said to be electrified. By 1991, the number is said to have swelled to 481,124. However, in the next decade, due to faulty maintenance and cash-strapped electricity boards, the number declined to 474,982.
The rural electrification program was launched in April 2005, as the Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidhyutikaran Yojana (RGGVY), by the Ministry of Power with an objective to provide access to electricity to all rural households and electricity connections free of cost to below poverty line (BPL) households. The initial targeted deadline set for March 2009 however, could not be met and the deadline was extended to 2012-13 and then 2013-14.
According to Rural Electrification Company (REC) annual reports, from April 2005 to March 2014, 108,280 villages were electrified and 21,683,554 free electricity connections were given to BPL households.
In November 2014, the present government re-launched the RGGVY as the Deen Dayal Upadhyay Grameen Jyoti Yojana as a new scheme. The minor difference being, that the new scheme advocated separate feeders for agricultural and non-agricultural consumers to roster the supply and meter them separately for easy monitoring.
It is claimed that the focus of the program under the present government has been intensive-electrification. While a village is said to be electrified if 10% of its households have access to electricity, intensive electrification entails deepening of the infrastructure so as to reach maximum households in a village. While the DDJY website shows that 100% of census villages have been electrified now, intensive electrification has been completed in 80% of those villages. The consistency of the data provided however, could not be validated due to fluctuations in the data provided by the GARV app, which provides real-time data on rural electrification.
In a report presented earlier this week, the World Bank has stated that India is doing “extremely well” with respect to rural electrification, as nearly 85% of the country’s population now has access to electricity. Between 2010 and 2016, India has been able to provide electricity to almost 30 million people per year, which is more than any other country. The report suggests, that while providing electricity to the remaining 15% of the 1.25 billion population still remains a challenge, India is set to achieve the target of universal access to electricity before the 2030 target date.
There might be some differences in the facts, one thing that remains true is that the country is constantly being electrified on a regular basis. Villages have been brought under the radar and they now have access to electricity. The government and opposition might continue their fight to take credit, what is more important is the fact that the poor villagers who were left-behind till date, are now joining the mainstreams. They can now also put in their productive contribution towards nation’s development. For the poor villagers, the electrification is like justice, better late than never.