Illegal connections, multiple households living together behind drop in targeted households, says state
Yogi govt has provided electricity connections to 9.4 million households since coming to power in March 2017, with an additional million connections expected to be given
NEW DELHI: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in Uttar Pradesh has slashed its household electrification target from 12 million to 7.47 million, saying all households in the state have now been electrified under the Union government’s politically important Saubhagya scheme.
Uttar Pradesh is key to the ₹16,320 crore Pradhan Mantri Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojana (Saubhagya) to provide all Indian households with electricity. The state returns the largest number of lawmakers to Parliament. As such, the move by the government acquires a political hue, especially in the run-up to the general elections due by April-May.
The National Democratic Alliance wants to showcase its success in providing round-the-clock power across the country. Uttar Pradesh is crucial in this aspect as the state accounts for nearly a third of new connections provided to rural and urban households under Saubhagya.
The Saubhagya scheme was to provide electricity connections to 40 million Indian homes by March 2019. However, this was aimed to be completed by December 2018, three months ahead of schedule. This target was reduced to 30 million rural and urban households after it was found that some households did not exist, or had already been electrified, according to Union government officials. Now, the target has come down to 24.847 million households.
The drop in the number of targeted households is because of a combination of factors, according to Uttar Pradesh Power Corp. Ltd chairman Alok Kumar.
These include illegal connections, multiple households staying together in one house and using a single connection (around 1 million such connections), and overlaps such as the same identified connections being provided by the state government before the launch of the Saubhagya scheme in 2017, he said earlier this month.
A large number of the illegal connections have been regularized, but around a million households who were tapping power illegally are yet to get their connections regularized, said Kumar, who is also the principal secretary, energy, for the state.
“When the electrification teams of the states went to the villages, they found that the number of houses left for electrification in most villages was less than that estimated by them," the Union government said in a statement on 25 January. “This was mostly on two counts. First, many census households were living together and availing electricity services together with single connection and, second, many households have already availed connections in the process of village electrification and intensive electrification under the ongoing scheme of Deen Dayal Upadhyay Gram Jyoti Yojana and the states’ scheme," it said.
However, there is a question mark over the Uttar Pradesh government reducing its target of household electrification. There are around 3.5 million ‘unwilling’ households (those whose connections have not been regularized), a Union government official said requesting anonymity. Kumar, however, refuted this figure.
“There is a huge political-economy behind these connections and hence this new category of ‘unwilling’ consumers," said the official mentioned above.
“Ultimately, it’s the state’s responsibility," said another Union government official.
Experts believe such ‘unwilling’ households pose a challenge.
“Subsequent to the electrification of all households, the challenge would be to retain the formalization of close to 25% illegal connections," said Sambitosh Mohapatra, partner (advisory, power and utilities), PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) India, the programme manager for implementing the scheme in UP.
Queries emailed to the spokespersons of the Union power ministry and REC on 7 January and 8 January, respectively, remain unanswered.
The Yogi Adityanath government has provided electricity connections to 9.4 million households since coming to power in March 2017, with an additional million connections expected to be given, said Kumar. “This is not the end. We will keep on providing connections. Both the government of India and the state government are committed to providing connections to the willing customers," Kumar said.