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Electricity for the poor still a dream

Electricity for the poor still a dream
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First Published: Thu, Jul 24 2008. 10 46 AM IST

Updated: Mon, Sep 08 2008. 02 37 PM IST
New Delhi: India’s ambitious rural electrification programme, part of a larger rural infrastructure development programme which is one of the ruling United Progressive Alliance government’s showpieces, will reach a little more than half the 125,000 villages it sought to cover by the deadline of March 2009.
A 4 June government review of Bharat Nirman, the rural infrastructure programme, found that only 47,837 villages had been “electrified” till 30 April and that another 18,000 would be by the deadline of 2009. The programme also looks likely to miss another target. Only 2.4 million so-called below the poverty line (BPL) or poor households have been provided with an electricity connection. By 2009, this number will rise to six million; the target was 23 million.
The rural electrification programme is dubbed Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojana and it, along with other programmes part of Bharat Nirman were launched in 2005. The Union government provides 90% of the capital cost involved in these programmes.
“A delayed and lower allocation of funds has all but ensured that the scheme will fail to meet its promise,” said a power ministry official who did not wish to be identified.
“A project has a lifecycle of at least two years. The delay in fund sanctions for the 11th Plan (2007-12) made us lose one year. Schemes like these require advance planning and the fund sanction should have been done before the start of financial year 2007-08,” the official added. India’s policy planning is done through so-called five-year Plans.
The electrification scheme had an initial total outlay of Rs5,000 crore. However, from April 2007 till 3 January 2008, no further funding was allocated. The government then announced a subsidy provision of Rs28,000 crore earlier this year.Mint had earlier reported on 5 October that the scheme would fail to deliver on its promise of providing electricity to every village in India by 2009.
“It is not only the issue of funding but also implementation,” said Anish De, chief executive officer at Mercados Asia, an energy consulting firm. “Rather than driven by numbers, if the government puts in good efforts and ensure no further slippage, it is a good scheme.”
The scheme is yet to make an impact in Jammu and Kashmir and the north-eastern states due to security and law and order problems, non-availability of turnkey contractors and high costs.
sangeeta.s@livemint.com
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First Published: Thu, Jul 24 2008. 10 46 AM IST