Turning on the lights
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The Deendayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana, launched in 2015, is one of the Narendra Modi government’s flagship programmes. According to minister of state for power, coal, new and renewable energy and mines Piyush Goyal’s reply to a question in the Rajya Sabha on Monday, 13,872 unelectrified census villages have been electrified out of 18,452 unelectrified villages in the country.
The deadline for 100% electrification has already been pushed back once from 2017 to 2018. More importantly, the definition of electrification involves sleight of hand. According to power ministry criteria, a village is electrified if public places such as schools and dispensaries, as well as at least 10% of households, are provided electricity. This leaves a rather large loophole. Power ministry data shows that only 8% or so of the electrified villages have power reaching all their households. The reliability of the connection is also an issue.
Perhaps the Yojana will fulfil its target by next year. It will make for a good talking point for the government. But the actual social and economic benefits of electrification are another matter.