Rural electrification drive slows in some states due to Maoist fear

Rural electrification drive slows in some states due to Maoist fear
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First Published: Tue, Feb 24 2009. 09 50 PM IST

Transmission blocks: As of 15 January, only 55,000 villages and 4.5 mn families below the poverty line have been connected to power grids. Harikrishna Katragadda / Mint
Transmission blocks: As of 15 January, only 55,000 villages and 4.5 mn families below the poverty line have been connected to power grids. Harikrishna Katragadda / Mint
Updated: Tue, Feb 24 2009. 09 50 PM IST
New Delhi: India’s ambitious programme to provide electricity to the rural poor is facing trouble in some states because officials there are unwilling to travel to villages to collect data, fearing Maoist violence.
These states are Jharkhand, Bihar, Orissa and Madhya Pradesh, said a power ministry official, who declined being identified.
Transmission blocks: As of 15 January, only 55,000 villages and 4.5 mn families below the poverty line have been connected to power grids. Harikrishna Katragadda / Mint
As part of Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojana (RGGVY), state officials have to visit rural areas to gather data on below poverty line (BPL) families.
“These are Naxal-affected areas and these states are yet to give us the BPL list, in the absence of which nothing much can be done,” the official said. “While Jharkhand, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh are yet to complete the list, Orissa has a partly completed list.”
Launched in April 2005, RGGVY is part of the Bharat Nirman project to develop rural infrastructure at an initial project cost of Rs1.76 trillion. It aims to provide power to 125,000 villages and connect 23 million BPL households by 31 March.
As on 15 January only 55,000 villages and 4.5 million BPL families have been connected.
According to the ministry of rural development, of the 300 million people below the poverty line, around 73%, or 220 million, live in villages in about 45 million households. The number of such families is estimated by each state, under guidelines developed in 1992 by a task force set up by the ministry.
While state government officials of Bihar and Jharkhand’s energy department didn’t respond to phone calls or messages left on their mobile phones, officials of Madhya Pradesh and Orissa couldn’t be immediately contacted.
Questions emailed to the energy departments of Bihar, Orissa and Madhya Pradesh went unanswered.
The power ministry official didn’t elaborate on problems RGGVY is facing in other states affected by Maoist violence. Mint couldn’t ascertain whether other states also face such problems.
K. Ramanathan, distinguished fellow at The Energy and Resources Institute, said: “In Maoist-affected areas, even if there is a BPL list, its credibility gets questionable... This is not only a problem with RGGVY, but with a majority of power projects in the country. Unless law and order problem is tackled by the government at the administrative level, it will be difficult to implement developmental projects.”
This is not the first government-sponsored project to face trouble from Maoists. Mint had reported on 11 June about the delay in the expansion of Damodar Valley Corp.’s Rs2,000 crore power plant at Chanderpura in Jharkhand.
The proposed 4,000MW Tilaiya power project also faces similar hurdles, as reported by Mint on 17 December.
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First Published: Tue, Feb 24 2009. 09 50 PM IST