New Delhi: Almost all Indian homes targeted under the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government’s marque Pradhan Mantri Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojana or Saubhagya have got electricity connections, according to the data available on the scheme’ website.

Of 26.04 million households targeted under the scheme, 99.93% or 26.02 million households have got electricity connections as on 31 March. The remaining 0.07% or 18,820 households yet to receive last-mile electricity connectivity are in Chattisgarh.

The 16,320 crore Saubhagya scheme funds the cost of last-mile connectivity to ‘willing households’ and was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2017. It was to provide electricity connections to 40 million Indian homes by March 2019. The 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.

Mint reported on 31 January about the BJP government in Uttar Pradesh slashing its household electrification target from 12 million to 7.47 million, and said all households in the state were electrified under the Saubhagya scheme. The state held the key to the scheme’s success given that it accounts for a substantive portion of targeted connections. The move acquired a political hue, especially in the run-up to the general elections.

The BJP plans to leverage marquee programmes such as the Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana (DDUGJY), which helped bring electricity to India’s census villages and the Saubhagya scheme to garner votes.

The government’s plan to provide “24X7 clean and affordable power for all" by March 2019 has been a mixed bag. While all states claim to be providing round-the-clock electricity to urban consumers, the same is not the case for rural consumers.

“Almost all states claim that they have done 24X7 power in urban areas," said an union government official requesting anonymity.

Mint reported on 26 February about 13 states claiming to supply round-the-clock electricity to consumers, according to indicative feeder monitoring data, These states include Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, West Bengal, Punjab, Goa, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Tripura and Uttarakhand. Also all union territories have been supplying 24x7 power to urban and rural consumers. In addition, nine states have been supplying 24x7 power to urban consumers.

“However the hours of power supplied to agriculture sector will be as per state's policies so as to reduce water wastage and prevent over exploitation of our already stressed ground water resources," power minister Raj Kumar Singh said in a statement on 26 February.

Given that electricity is in the concurrent list, it is for states to ensure quality, reliable and affordable electricity to consumers. All states and union territories had inked roadmap documents with the union government to this effect.

This looks like a tall order in the backdrop of the poor financial health of the state state distribution utilities, or discoms. They have been plagued by issues such as low collection, increase in power purchase cost, inadequate electricity tariff hike and subsidy disbursement, and increasing government department dues resulting in poor payment records.

Government data showed in the first half of FY19, losses rose to 15,080 crore from 11,071 crore a year earlier. As on September 2015, the total debt of all state owned discoms was estimated to be around 2.45 trillion, with 0.8 lakh crore serviced by the states. Also, the annual discom losses in FY16, FY17 and FY18 were funded through borrowings.

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