Union power minister Raj Kumar Singh on Friday said the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government will focus on providing reliable, sustainable and affordable electricity to the masses in its second term.
Singh, the minister of state with independent charge for power and new and renewable energy, was responsible for implementing the ₹16,320-crore Saubhagya scheme, which aimed to provide electricity to all Indian households during the first term of Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led NDA government.
“In the previous stint, we resolved the problem of access. Our next priority is to make it sustainable and 24X7," Singh told reporters.
The ministry has developed a crowd-sourcing mobile app for real-time consumer feedback on quality and availability of power from across the country to ensure uninterrupted supply.
The move comes amid the need for data integrity, with many states claiming to have achieved 24X7 power for all, despite outages.
The app Jagruk (awareness), developed by the National Informatics Centre (NIC), has an automatic mode, wherein power supply data will be collected when a mobile phone is being charged.
The pilot project will be rolled out shortly in Odisha, Uttarakhand, Assam and Bihar, besides all Union territories.
Electricity availability had become an important issue in the run-up to the 17th Lok Sabha elections, and Singh was credited for ensuring that almost all Indian homes, which were targeted under the marque Pradhan Mantri Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojana or Saubhagya got electricity connections.
Of the 26.30 million households targeted under the scheme, 99.93%, or 26.28 million households, have got electricity connections as on 21 May, according to government data.
“The next priority is to bring a change in the energy mix and also keep in mind our commitment to the international community," Singh added.
In his earlier stint, Singh also oversaw India’s emerging green economy with the country running the world’s largest renewable energy programme.
“During the last stint, we resolved the problem of access. In this stint, the supply has to be sustained," said Singh, a 1975 batch Bihar cadre Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer, who had served as the home secretary in the UPA-II government.
A second-time Lok Sabha MP from Arrah, Singh is well regarded within the bureaucracy and is aware of problems in the power sector.
He will also have to resolve the poor financial health of state electricity distribution companies (discoms), which has resulted in delayed payment to generation utilities. The crisis comes amid India’s electricity demand hitting an all-time high.
Singh’s second stint at the Shram Shakti Bhawan, the government building that houses the Union power ministry, also comes at a time when non-performing assets (NPAs) in power generation account for around 5.9% of the banking sector’s total outstanding advances of ₹4.73 trillion, according to the second volume of the Economic Survey 2016-17 released in August.
“Availability of power is no more an issue. We will take the states together," Singh said.
“I am aware of the challenges and I am quite certain that we will overcome those challenges."