Will the promised ‘UJWAL BHARAT’ be a reality?

One year on, rural areas of Rajasthan continue to reel under heavy power cuts of up to 12 hours a day. It was in May 2016 when THE BLUE MOON had done the cover story on “power remaining elusive in large parts of rural Rajasthan.” Even as the Ministry of Power website proudly underlines the term UJWAL BHARAT, there seems to be darkness under the lamp. Tall claims by the Ministry of electrification of villages seem to be futile and an exercise on paper.

There are large chunks of rural areas where power is not available almost throughout the day. Sometimes for days, there are reports of power not being supplied to the areas. There is never any advance information on scheduled maintenance periods and the power goes off anytime, anywhere.

Starting from Tijara, which happens to be a pilgrimage center for a community in Alwar, the areas around  Sariska Tiger Reserve, suffered power shutdowns, at times for entire day last year.

The situation of power cuts does not seem to have improved as was evident from eight to ten hours of power cuts in Ranthambhore, which attracts tourists almost nine months in a year for its famed tiger sanctuary.

The hospitality industry seems to have been hit the hardest by the power cuts as they have to run DG sets almost throughout the day. At night there is some relief, but early morning the power goes off and the DG sets are turned on.

Last year THE BLUE MOON had contacted Rajsthan’s Minister of State for Power, Pushpendra Singh who had claimed that “there were no power cuts and no load shedding.” Obviously, either he was oblivious of the ground reality or telling a lie. According to him there was an average consumption of 8000 megawatts in the State. 

If the Minister is to be believed there should not be any power cuts, not even in the rural areas of the State. He had expressed surprise when pointed out the areas reeling under long power cuts.

There seems to be something wrong between the supply in reality and on paper. The Rajasthan Rajya Vidyut  Utpadan Nigam Limited with nine power stations has an installed capacity of 5957 mw and six ongoing projects will add 2800 mw to the existing network. All this is listed in the public domain on the website of RRVUNL. However, nothing is clear on the actual generation from these nine power stations, whether some of them remain shut due to maintenance or are generating below their capacity is not mentioned in the public domain.

8,242 villages have been electrified till date, claims a press release issued by the Power Ministry.

The government had set a target of electrifying 18,452 villages within 1000 days or by 01 May, 2018. 

The government has several claims to make – all on paper or websites. A total of 1654 villages were electrified during April to 14 Aug 2015 and 6,588 additional villages were electrified from 15 August 2015 to 12th June 2016 as per the tall claims.

The press note issued by the Union Power Ministry also includes villages in Rajasthan in the list of 8242 already electrified rural areas. Is the electrification being done on paper? Power lines were laid, but no supply of electricity. Obviously the achievements seem hollow if the example of Rajasthan is taken into consideration.

The government has allocated Rs 4,843 crore to electrify the rural areas under the Deendayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana (DDUGJY) in financial year 2017-18. However, the ground realities are different. Not much has changed except the favourite game of the present government – the change of name of the erstwhile Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojana (RGGVY) scheme for village electrification has been hijacked into the newly formed DDUGJY. Rural Electrification Corporation (REC) is the Nodal Agency for implementation of DDUGJY.

In order to expedite the progress, monitoring is claimed to be done through Gram Vidyut Abhiyanta (GVA). Going by the electrification plan progress (on paper), the targeted number of 18,452 villages will be electrified, but no electricity will be available in the rural areas, it seems.

Of 18452 villages, 13441 have been electrified and 4077 are yet to be electrified, according to GVA.

In his Budget speech, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had said 100 per cent electrification of villages will be achieved by 1 May, 2018. 

Probably, this will be yet another hollow promise of the present central government and the BJP-ruled Rajasthan State government too.

             ……..Amit Mittal……..

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