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Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday highlighted the success of one of his government’s marquee schemes, the Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana. Photo: PTI
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday highlighted the success of one of his government’s marquee schemes, the Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana. Photo: PTI

Narendra Modi highlights success of rural electrification

The BJP-led government is upping its outreach strategy to increase its social base and reap political dividends out of the success stories before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday highlighted the success of one of his government’s marquee schemes, the Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana (DDUGJY), that helped in bringing electricity to all of India’s 597,464 census villages on 28 April, setting the stage for universal household electrification.

While interacting with the beneficiaries from Manipur, Tripura, Assam, Jammu and Kashmir, Uttarakhand and Rajasthan through video-conferencing, Modi said the “lives of the people living in these areas were confined from sunrise to sunset. The light from the sun used to decide the hours of working for them; whether it was children’s studies, cooking, or any other domestic chores."

In his Independence Day speech on 15 August 2015, Modi had set a 1,000-day deadline to electrify villages that still did not have access to electricity. There were 18,452 unelectrified census villages in 2015 before the government allocated Rs75,893 crore for the DDUGJY with the aim of providing electricity access to all villages. It was later found that another 1,275 villages also didn’t have access.

“Previous governments made tall promises to bring electricity but never worked towards keeping their promises. In 2005, during the Congress government under Shri Manmohan Singh Ji had promised to electrify all the villages in the country by 2009," Modi said.

This comes against the backdrop of the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government upping its outreach strategy to increase its social base and reap political dividends out of the success stories before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

Extolling the socio-economic benefits of electricity, Modi said, “In the remote and backward areas of our nation, there are lakhs of people living in thousands of villages who hadn’t received electricity since decades after Independence."

While only around 1,500 villages were electrified at the time of India’s independence in 1947, the number reached 481,124 in 1991. According to government data, 63,955 villages were provided electricity access during the 10th Plan period (2002-07) and 45,955 villages during the 11th Plan period (2007-12). Of India’s 597,464 census villages, 579,012 villages, or 97%, were electrified by 31 March 2015.

“All of us have 24 hours for a day, everyone wants to utilise time as much as possible, which paves the way to success for ourselves, our families, our culture and nation. But if 10-12 hrs are removed, would we be able to do the same work that we could, in 24 hrs?" Modi said.

The task was challenging, given that the last of the unelectrified villages were in remote locations, in states such as Jammu and Kashmir, Arunachal Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. Moving men and material was difficult not only because of inhospitable terrain, but also because some villages in Chhattisgarh were located in areas affected by Maoist violence.

“The people who have not seen darkness, don’t understand the meaning of illumination. Those who have not spent their lives in the darkness, they don’t realise the value of light," Modi said while adding that 28 April was a historic day when the national power grid reached Leisang village in the Senapati district of Manipur.

Of the 18,374 villages that received electricity under the DDUGJY; 14,582 villages were in eastern India. Of these, 5,790 villages were in India’s North Eastern region. The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government has been pushing the economic agenda in these strategically located states.

Referring to Elephanta Island, off the Mumbai coast, Modi said that despite it being a tourist attraction and a UNESCO world heritage site, three villages on the island didn’t have electricity access even after 70 years of independence.

Aimed at providing round the clock power to rural households and adequate power to agricultural consumers, the DDUGJY involved feeder separation, strengthening of sub-transmission and the distribution network, metering at all levels, village electrification, and setting up micro-grid and off-grid distribution networks.

Given that a village is declared to be electrified if 10% of the households can access power along with public institutions such as schools, the panchayat office, health centres, dispensaries and community centres; household electrification remains the final frontier in providing electricity access.

The government had set a target to achieve universal household electrification by 31 March 2019. With electricity reaching all census villages, the government’s focus is now on providing electricity connections under the Pradhan Mantri Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojana (Saubhagya). The government plans to provide electricity connections to all Indian homes by December 2018, with state-run Rural Electrification Corporation being the nodal agency for implementing Saubhagya.

Modi said that even as electricity has reached every village, his government is not satisfied, with the next task at hand being of providing an electricity connection to every household in urban and rural areas.

“Electricity doesn’t only bring light but also brings self-confidence," Modi said while adding that it is also an instrument for fighting poverty.

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