All of India’s 597,464 census villages have finally got electricity. This marks a milestone in India’s history and sets the stage for universal household electrification, with all houses likely to get electricity connections by December 2018.

Why is this development important?

In 1950, only 3,000 Indian villages had electricity. The Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana, which aimed to provide electricity to all villages, set the stage for electrification of around 37 million households under the Saubhagya scheme. The last unelectrified villages were in remote locations in states such as Jammu and Kashmir, Arunachal Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. In 102 villages, it took between 1 day and 10 days to carry the material on foot.

What are the benefits?

There is an undeniable link between poverty eradication and the spread of electricity use. Census 2011 showed that Bihar, which posted extraordinary growth in electrification, saw a rapid fall in official poverty levels. The scheme will also help improve India’s per capita power consumption of around 1,200 kilowatt hours, among the lowest in the world.

So why the criticism?

A village is declared electrified if 10% of its households get power, apart from public institutions. The government said on Monday that the, “definition of village electrification is a legacy issue which, though, mandates electrification of at least 10% households in a village, but does not imply restricting household electrification only to 10%. As per recent reports from the states, household electrification level in rural areas is more than 82%, ranging from 47-100% across various states". Also, the figures leave out habitations such as hamlets.

Who gets the credit?

Rural electrification has been the holy grail for successive governments. While only around 1,500 villages had been electrified at the time of independence, the number reached 481,124 in 1991. 63,955 villages were provided electricity during the 10th five-year plan (2002-07) and 45,955 villages during the 11th plan (2007-12). 579,012 villages, or 97% of India’s villages, were electrified by 31 March 2015.

What next?

The government is now pushing for household electrification through the Rs16,320 crore Saubhagya scheme, which finances the cost of last-mile connectivity to willing households. Since its launch in September 2017, five million households have got electricity connections.

According to government data, 82% of Indian households have been electrified and seven states—Punjab, Gujarat, Goa, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Puducherry—have achieved 100% household electrification.

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