To prevent a repeat of the Nagla Fatela incident where the state government of Uttar Pradesh staged a complete U-turn within months of declaring the village as electrified, Union cabinet minister of state for power, coal, mines and renewable energy, Piyush Goyal has decided to adopt a multi stage audit process for all those villages that have been declared as electrified on the Central GARV mobile app, following a confirmation from the respective state power authorities.
To catch the bull by its horn and confront the states upfront, Goyal’s modus operandi involves a first stage check on electrified villages by the Grameen Vidyut Abhiyantas (GVAs) or engineers working with central agencies like Rural Electrification Corporation/Power Finance Corporation.
These GVAs, already appointed and working in the far-fetched rural areas, have already been asked by the power ministry to carry out cross-verification of village electrification claims by every state.
The second stage of audit is being by the BJP workers (an initiative of the party) in respective villages. These party workers are visiting villages `declared as electrified’ and cross check if the power infrastructure and electricity supply position is in line with the information provided by state power authorities to the central government. The report ofi this is also being shared with the union power ministry.
If any discrepancy is found in the information forwarded by states or in case of funds diversion or pilferage, the power ministry will finally resort to the third and final stage most powerful audit, by asking the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) to bring out the truth in public domain.
So what led to this Detailed Audit by the Power Ministry?
Soon after Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a mention of village Nagla Fatela (in Hathras district of Western UP), as one of the 10,000 odd villages electrified under the village electrification drive of the NDA government, a war of sorts was declared by the state government of Uttar Pradesh.
The ruling Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh, despite documents and communications that were sent from the highest level state authorities (that of principal secretary) to the union power ministry confirming the electrification of village Nagla Fatela, staged a complete U-turn on the electrification of this village. This was despite the fact that on 30th October 2015, the UP state DISCOM had verified that it had completed the work.
Under the Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana (DDUGJY), through which the rural electrification drive is being pursued, the Central Government allots funds on the basis of reports by the State Government. Being a concurrent subject the Centre cannot provide electricity or infrastructure on its own.
After the confirmation by the UP state DICOM, the central government released details of the electrification work of the village on its GARV app to ensure that the public was kept in the loop and subsequently, PM Modi announced that this village had benefitted from the scheme.
However, when the media went to the village, they found people claiming that they had electricity since around 1985. Merely some poles had been laid but electricity was not being provided! It later came to light that the people exasperated after years of empty promises, had drawn illegal connections from their agricultural pump lines for which, the state government gives subsidised rates.
Entrepreneurial officers of the state distribution company have been allowing these connections in return for a minimal bill, and presumably, some other considerations that account for what is called ‘disproportionate assets’.
The UP state government clearly turned a blind eye to this pilferage and did not even bother to provide electricity through the new infrastructure (electricity poles and wires laid out in the village) that was provided out of the funds released by REC for electrification of village Nagla Fatela.
As UP indulged in wasting the new and critical infrastructure provided under the central electrification scheme for Nagla Fatela, otherwise one of the little known villages, the same could also be true for other villages within UP as also in other states. To ensure complete transparency and set an example of sorts, the three stage audit will ensure a fool proof mechanism for electrification of villages across India.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org (9810661825)