Home / Industry / Infrastructure /  Middle East, Africa seek India’s help to light up their villages

New Delhi: Impressed by India’s rural electrification drive, West Asian countries such as Jordan and Syria and some countries in sub-Saharan Africa have evinced interest in state-run Rural Electrification Corporation (REC) bringing electricity to their villages, said a person aware of the development.

This comes in the backdrop of electricity finally reaching all of India’s 597,464 census villages on 28 April, setting the stage for universal household electrification. REC, India’s largest power sector lender, is the nodal agency that executed the scheme.

“Given our experience and expertise in the field of electrification, we are prepared to provide a range of services and financing for developing power sector in other emerging economies," said P.V. Ramesh, chairman and managing director, REC.

The interest from Syria is for the electrification reconstruction work, given that its power sector has been badly affected due to the civil war. 

The West Asian country has witnessed a bloody civil war over the last seven years. The unrest began as the so-called Arab Spring or pro-democracy protests that overthrew long-ruling presidents of Tunisia, Egypt and other countries in the region spread to Syria with the opposition Syrian National Council fighting to overthrow the country’s President Bashar Hafez al-Assad.

India has been looking at rebuilding infrastructure in Syria, including a power plant in the country, Mint reported on 12 August 2016. 

“We will extend our support and help in such countries," said an REC executive who didn’t want to be named.

With some areas in Jordan yet to be electrified, the country has sought REC’s help. Also, some sub-Saharan African countries are interested in REC doing the entire rural electrification package ranging from financing to technology transfer, detailed project report (DPR) preparation to execution. 

In the nine months to December, REC’s loan book was Rs2.24 trillion, with a net worth of Rs36,567 crore.

India has been stepping up its engagement with Jordan, seen as part of India’s extended neighbourhood to its west. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had visited the Gulf Arab states of Jordan, Palestine, the United Arab Emirates and Oman in February this year.

“We are working in some countries in areas of transmission through Power Grid Corp. of India Ltd (PGCIL). We are willing to provide consultancy to those who seek assistance through the consulting arms of PGCIL and REC," said power secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla.

State-run PGCIL is already present in 20 countries with its consultancy business.

Some of its clients are in countries such as Kenya, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan and Afghanistan. A case in point being PGCIL implementing the 220KV transmission link in Afghanistan from Kabul to Pul-e-Khumri that brings power from Uzbekistan to Afghanistan.

Queries emailed to India’s ministry of external affairs and Syrian embassy in New Delhi on Tuesday remained unanswered. Jordan’s embassy in New Delhi couldn’t be reached.

The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government had set a target to achieve universal household electrification by 31 March 2019. With electricity reaching all 597,464 census villages last month, 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 REC being the nodal agency for implementing Saubhagya.

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