By Anupama Airy
When information is disseminated without a basic understanding of the manual of our country (read Constitution of India), chaos is bound to prevail.
Lack of correct information on the roles of the Centre and States on supply of electricity to households is creating a lot of confusion amongst the people of the country on the issue of large scale village electrification.
Let’s take the example of a bulb and a switch. If electricity is flowing to your home from the state power distribution company, the bulb and the switch are of some use. However, there is no electricity coming from behind, having a bulb and a switch is useless.
Similarly, if the Centre electrifies a village, it can turn the switch on but the bulb wouldn’t light until the state ensures steady and constant supply of power through the wiring.
For a common man, it is easy to get carried away when baseless information is presented in convincing manners through established mediums.
Moreover, as the assembly elections approach, the issue of village electrification has become the spear of political propaganda against the ruling BJP government at the Centre, with desperate efforts to malign and misrepresent the steps being taken in the direction of rural electrification.
State governments like that of Uttar Pradesh along with its officials are seen misguiding people at large using media or otherwise, on the issue of village electrification by blaming the Centre for not providing electricity in homes situated in villages that have been declared as “electrified.”
In a bid to disturb the pace of work on village electrification being carried out by the Centre, it has been reported that “92% of the 10,072 newly electrified villages include homes which do not have electricity.”
Let’s assume that the statement made above is absolutely factually correct and let’s also understand that electricity is a concurrent subject as laid out in the Constitution.
In that case it means that while the responsibility of generation and transmission of power vests with the Centre, the responsibility to distribute power to homes lies with the States, therefore making it the entity responsible for power not reaching each household of every village in our country.
To understand this further, it is significant to note that the Central government under its Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana (DDUGJY) has sanctioned thousands of crores (Rs 42,392 croreas on July 31, 2016) to states for electrification of the 18452 villages.
Using these central funds, agencies are appointed to lay the power infrastructure (poles and wires). Once the infrastructure is laid out, it is the state power distribution company responsible for flowing electricity into these poles and wires.
But it doesn’t end here.
Let us now dig into the politics that stand as a hurdle, hindering the electrification of villages across the states of India.
The real problem arises after the state assures the Centre that complete power is running through the infrastructure provided for electricity in the village. As the quality and steady flow of power through this infrastructure also rests with the state, they have the free will to withdraw the supply at any time.
As per IndiaSpend, a website, three-quarters of electrified homes in rural Uttar Pradesh received electricity less than 12 hours a day. Thanks to the Vidyut Parvah app of the union power ministry that provides a real time check on power supply, it is evident that UP is not purchasing power and most of its cities (forget about the villages) are getting very little power.
Another point to be noted here is that it is not the villages alone but the big cities and towns too where not every household has a steady and legal flow of electricity.
Witness this: Ramkishore, a rickshaw puller earns about Rs 200-250 a day or between Rs 6000-7500 a month, a small amount to support a family of six that stays in a single room in Noida (Uttar Pradesh).
His one room house in Noida (not a village area) still does not have electricity connection and he is happily paying his neighbour Bilal Rs 800 a month for lighting two bulbs and fan in his room through a wire that has been pulled from Bilal’s house next door.
Ramkishore says there are many such houses that either do not have power connections at all or have worked out similar illegal ways or arrangements (popularly called `Jugaads’) to light their homes.
Let us now turn to smaller cities in states like Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Haryana (northern and central part of India). There are hundreds to thousands of homes that have not taken electricity connections and are using various illegal means to have power or are happy staying without electricity.
Take any city in a state (in North India fom Delhi to Haryana to Punjab or Tamil Nadu to Karnataka in South, Bihar in East or Maharashtra in West), you can easily locate hundreds of homes that are sitting without electricity. Voluntarily.
So while the Centre can provide funds and means for free connections to ‘Below The Poverty Line (BPL)’ households, it cannot force upon the consumers in villages and cities to take electricity connections. It is also the job of the state power distribution companies to check that a consumer does not resort to illegal means of lighting their homes.
Thus before we start counting households as “electrified” or otherwise and pointing fingers, we must be conscious of the direction we point them in.
Read this post in Hindi:- किसकी जिम्मेदारी? केंद्र से पूछताछ व राज्यों के बचाव से भारत का विद्युतीकरण नहीं होगा।
Currently, Writing a Book for Penguin India Titled Greased Pole:How Politics and Lobbying Stifled India’s Energy Dreams. The author can be reached on email@example.com (9810661825)