New Delhi: While the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government is stepping up efforts to provide electricity connections to all households, around 3.4 million households in Uttar Pradesh are tapping power illegally.

UP accounts for more than a third of new connections to be provided by December. With general elections scheduled to take place early next year, the state is key to the Union government’s ambitious exercise of electrifying more than 30 million rural and urban households under the Pradhan Mantri Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojana (Saubhagya) scheme.

With its target of 12 million connections, the state government is now trying to regularize these illegal connections, as the NDA proposes to showcase its success to reach 24x7 power across the country.

“UP is connecting close to 12 million customers into the utility records through Saubhagya. It was based on a rigourous foot survey done by the utility and turnkey contractors. About 72% will be drawn from unelectrified households and remaining will be formalising illegal connections," said Sambitosh Mohapatra, partner (advisory, power and utilities), Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC) India.

PwC is the programme manager for implementing the scheme in UP. “These households were drawing electricity without a meter," said a senior government official, involved in the exercise.

Repeated phone calls to Aparna Upadhyay, Uttar Pradesh Power Corporation Ltd, managing director, remained unanswered.

Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana, the scheme that helped bring electricity to all of India’s 597,464 census villages on 28 April, had set the stage for universal household electrification. The Centre aims to achieve the target by 31 March 2019.

A village is declared electrified if 10% of the households, and public places, such as schools, panchayat office, health centres, dispensaries and community centres, have electricity.

The government’s earlier plan was to provide electricity connections to 40 million Indian homes by December 2018, three months ahead of schedule. The target was reduced to 30 million rural and urban households after it was found that some households did not exist, or had already been electrified.

“When the actual verification was done, it was found out that the households didn’t exist, or had been already electrified, or had connections but no meters," said the government official quoted above.

With 100,000 homes getting electricity every day, 21 million connections have been given so far. The 16,320-crore Saubhagya scheme is also expected to boost India’s electricity demand. “Saubhagya will connect utilities to rural communities and formalize illegal consumers and revenue streams and significantly enhance rural economic development," said Mohapatra.

Power minister Raj Kumar Singh had said last month that all households across 15 Indian states have electricity connections. The government plans to achieve the target three months ahead of schedule. State-run REC Ltd. is the nodal agency for implementing the scheme.

“The sheer numbers and distance between habitations make it a daunting task. There was also lack of adequate infrastructure such as substation, transformers and cables to carry power. Having a pole and drawing a line or having a wiring of the house is easier. But creating the necessary infrastructure takes a lot of time," the government official added.

Under the scheme, all willing households are charged 500 for the connection, wherein the respective distribution company will recover it in 10 equal instalments. According to the contours of the scheme, a service cable is drawn from the nearest electricity pole to the household premise where an electricity meter is installed along with the wiring for a single light point with LED bulb and a mobile charging point.

“In states like Megahlaya, in Assam, or even in Odisha to some extent, it is the sheer distances from habitations to a village, or from one village to another is a huge task. It gets more challenging with intervening forests, rivers and mountains," the official said.

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