Next target is to take electricity to every single household
Apart from illumination, heating, and improved educational and health outcomes, electricity catalyses rural enterprise development
It is an established fact that electrification is the most important investment in transformational development acceleration, especially in the rural areas.
Apart from illumination, heating, and improved educational and health outcomes, electricity catalyses rural enterprise development, thus creating large scale off-farm employment, and boosts demand for electrical appliances contributing to the Make-in-India mission.
Recognizing these facts, the prime minister made a solemn pledge to the nation on 15 August 2015 that “team India would electrify all remaining 18,500 villages in one thousand days”. The task was to take electricity to the most interior and inaccessible villages spread across 19 states located in the hitherto unreached areas in the high Himalayan ranges, deep valleys, in the midst of dense forests whose inhabitants have been excluded from the fruits of development.
While the visionary leadership, missionary inspiration, and guidance of the prime minister and power ministers has been vital, the seemingly unsurmountable task was achieved because of the tireless efforts of hundreds of teams of officials, technical staff, gram vidyut abhiyantas, and above all, the overwhelming support and proactive cooperation extended by the citizens of these villages. An equally important contribution to this monumental yagna was provided by the enthusiastic leadership of the chief ministers, state power ministers, state and discom officials at all operational levels, district collectors, field functionaries and contractors.
Equally important was the role of people’s representatives, especially the MPs, MLAs, MLCs and the elected bodies at the district and gram panchayats.
This gigantic task was orchestrated through mass mobilization across the nation. The armed forces contributed their might in reaching the materials to the remote villages of Jammu and Kashmir and Arunachal Pradesh. The Indian Institute of Technology Chennai custom designed and delivered the solar systems to the high-altitude villages within a record time.
As the prime minister has remarked, “28 April 2018 will be remembered as a historic day in the development journey of India”.
Twelve days ahead of the thousand-day deadline, every village listed in the 2011 census stands electrified. While 18,452 villages were notified by the states as unelectrified on 15 August 2015, an additional 1,227 villages were found without electricity during field verification. Of the 19,679 villages, 1,305 villages were found uninhabited without a single household.
Consequently, of the 18,374 villages, 15,612 were connected through extension of power grid, while the remaining 2,762 were electrified with solar systems that included micro-grids and household solar panels.
While what has been achieved is significant for the transformational and inclusive development of the most remote and interior villages and their contribution to the building of New India, there is yet another major milestone to cross in the development journey. The prime minister launched the Pradhan Mantri Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojana (Saubhagya) in September 2017 with a mandate to electrify all un-electrified households—nearly 38 million across the country—before the end of this year.
Further, nearly Rs1 trillion have been provided by centre for strengthening the distribution infrastructure under Deendayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana (DDUGJY) across the country. Ujjwal Discom Assurance Yojana (UDAY) launched by the centre in 2015 has had a far reaching impact on the financial health and operational efficiency of the distribution companies across the nation.
All these initiatives together have had a transformational impact on rural economic growth and equity.
While we savour the moment, there is little time to pause or ponder. Team India has been fully energized to achieve the next milestone, to take electricity to every single household and to strengthen the power infrastructure to ensure affordable quality power for all before this year ends.
P.V. Ramesh is the chairman and managing director of Rural Electrification Corporation. Views expressed here are personal.