Power supply to rural India a pressing concern
Gujarat Government, under Narendra Modi as Chief Minister, was applauded for its work to harness solar power and successfully carrying forward the development of offshore wind energy to provide electricity to every household.
India, under new Prime Minister Narendra Modi, aspires to emerge as an economic superpower. But the fact that about 400 million people in the country lack access to electricity (a number larger than the combined population of the US and Canada), poses a serious challenge before the NDA regime which was voted to power last month.
Narendra Modi’s speeches during elections reflected that he understands well the issues which are holding the country back. In almost all his public speeches, he talked about the energy crisis, especially the pathetic condition of power supply in rural India — something that is the topmost cause for economic backwardness among villages — and the migration of vast populations to more industrialized cities in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Delhi and some south Indian States.
Proper power supply to villages in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Odisha and several other States can open new avenues for economic development as small and cottage industries can flourish at village and Kasba levels in these States.
The Government’s own statistics suggest that over 94 per cent of rural India has been electrified (5,61,613 of 5,93,732 villages were electrified by October 2013) but nearly 40 crore people of the country still do not have access to proper electricity supply, says a Times of India report.Rural areas lying in the northern, north-western, western and peninsular parts of the country have above 90 per cent electricity connectivity. In the eastern part of India, the rural areas of the states like Bihar, West Bengal and Assam too have over 90 per cent power connectivity.
But villages in the States like Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Meghalaya and Tripura have 80-90 per cent electrification.
The Government is required to focus more on the States like Odisha, Chhattisgarh and Arunachal Pradesh where the electrification in rural areas is below 80 per cent.
Village located in most of the Union Territories have 100 per cent electrification except to Andaman and Nicobar Islands which has 67 per cent villages electrified. Government’s own data suggest that in Andaman and Nicobar Islands, there are 162 un-electrified Villages of which 88 Villages are in encroached forest area which cannot be electrified according to the Supreme Court’s order while its 72 villages have been washed away in Tsunami and people have been shifted to other places which are already electrified.
Though the connectivity with the electricity in large parts of rural India is fairly good but the main problem is long hours of power cuts in most parts of rural areas. Reports suggest that most of the villages in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and others don’t get power supply for days which highlights the pathetic condition in this matter. So now the major challenge is to improve power generation, transmission and supply for social and economic development of the villages.
Obviously the new Government has a duty to improve connectivity as well as ensure proper power supply in the areas where majority of population are forced to live in darkness.
It is well known that in a majority of villages in Bihar, UP and other industrially backward States, power supply is missing for days on end and in some cases even for weeks. It is important to note that the NDA won a majority of Lok Sabha seats located in rural parts of these States because his work as Gujarat’s Chief Minister, especially on electricity generation and supply, convinced a majority of voters that he will lift them out of the mire of economic backwardness by ensuring proper electricity supply — something that can prove to be a gamechanger in terms of economic development.
The Gujarat Government, under Narendra Modi as Chief Minister, got a lot of applause for its work in harnessing solar power and successfully carrying forward the development of offshore wind energy to provide electricity to every household. During election campaign, because of the way he discussed his plans to sort out power problems by means of non-conventional sources of energy, Modi is largely viewed as a power-literate Prime Minister, not only by people but by power sector giants too.
Speaking on hopes from Modi Government on power sector reforms to improve the state of electricity supply, columnist Sandhya Jain has also accepted the fact that Modi is not like a stereotypical politician who can be easily influenced by bureaucrats who have a tendency to resist an affirmative change. He knows how to make them work efficiently, she added.
“Modi had promised to empower people at grassroot level. People voted Modi to power with hopes that his Government will set right the consequences of the failure of the UPA Government on the developmental front. UPA’s power policy has proved to be catastrophic. What the new Government is required to do therefore is to chart out a plan to generate power at the district level. Alternatively, it can also create a cluster of districts on the basis of the size of a state and its electricity requirements,” she said.
She cited the example in some villages of Karnataka where people are using plastic and solid wastes for electricity generation besides tapping solar and wind energy.
“Nowadays, we have viable machines to harness solar and wind energy at household level. These machines are very successful in many countries and it can be useful in providing electricity supply in the areas which don’t have access to electricity. In Karnataka, a very innovative scheme has been successfully implemented in rural areas. 200 village Panchayats of the State have jointly worked on converting plastic and solid waste into fuel which is being used for electricity generation. The fuel is available for just 25 paise per litre which is very cost effective,” she added.
The previous UPA Government’s entire tenure was marred by corruption charges which affected its developmental policies. For example, the Coal Scam badly affected coal mining, due to which the supply of coal for power generation was affected.
To undo the wrongs of the UPA, it is high time the new Government under Narendra Modi took steps to improve the supply of coal as it is a prime source of power generation. Also needed is an effective policy to increase the proportion of solar and wind energy at every level across the country to ensure economic development of rural India.