Through Saubhagya, focus has shifted from aggregate level to individual household-level electrification

Since 2014, Prime Minister (PM) Modi has been pushing for reforms affecting the life of million fellow citizens. Global analysts have been critically and objectively assessing every move of the Modi government. Economists and organisations associated with the evaluation of socio-economic progress have shown a great amount of confidence in the PM. However, critics within and outside have their own observations, some of them yet to be validated.

Many of them suggest that the Indian economy has slowed down owing to steps like the implementation of demonetization and the Goods & Services Tax (GST). Despite that, India continues to be one of the fastest growing economies in the world. Implementation of GST is poised to bring long-term benefits to the economy, and industry would appreciate the game-changing reforms in the years to come.

Reforms in the coal and power sector are quite progressive. Modi government’s reforms like Ujwal DISCOM Assurance Yojana (UDAY) in the power sectors received unprecedented acceptance from multiple stakeholders, including the power producers, distribution companies, and consumers.

Modi’s vision to enable access of reliable and quality power to households, farmers, industries, and other users needs more strategic actions. A target set by the government to provide ‘Power for all (PFA) in India by 2019’ is moving in the right direction. However, it demands concerted and well-directed stimulus to provide 24x7 reliable and quality power.

To address power production and supply bottlenecks, initiatives have been taken to address issues of supply of coal to domestic power producers. A proposal to allow ‘flexibility in utilisation of domestic coal amongst power generating stations’ received approval of the Cabinet on May 4, 2016, and the Central Electricity Authority and the power ministry issued necessary guidelines to operationalise.

To improve the last mile connectivity, on September 25, 2017, PM Modi launched Pradhan Mantri Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojana — Saubhagya, which has a target of providing electricity to all households by December 31, 2018.

Under the scheme, 30 million households are to be connected within 14 months, an average of 2.14 million connections every month. Previously, most of the schemes were directed to address rural/village electrification. Statistics on village electrification reveals less truth on pervading darkness prevailing in the country. As the definition of village electrification emphasised: …“availability of basic infrastructure such as distribution transformer and distribution lines in the inhabited locality as well as the Dalit Basti hamlet where it exists; electricity provided to public places like schools, panchayat office, health centres, dispensaries, and community centres etc.; electrification of least 10 per cent of the total number of households in a village.” Through Saubhagya, focus shifts from the aggregate level to the individual household level electrification, which will bring better results.

Within the ambit of the existing definition of rural electrification, quality of power supply to rural areas remains a big concern in many states. Latest data from Deendayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana (DDUGJY) suggests that Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, and West Bengal are able to provide 24X7 electricity supply to the rural areas. On the contrary, average electricity supply to rural areas is just about 13, 15.5, 16.5, 17, and 17.4 hours in Haryana, Jharkhand, Bihar, Karnataka and Uttar Pradesh respectively. To achieve multiple objectives of electrifying villages and supplying quality power to rural areas under the DDUGJY, Rs 50,909.87 crore have been spent and Rs 42,550.79 crore have been approved for 32 States/UTs.

Electricity being a concurrent subject, active support of the states to ensure power to all citizens/establishments is not only desirable but also necessary, without which no scheme would deliver fruitful results. 24x7 PFA initiative provides a suitable platform to stakeholders like Ministry of Coal, Power, Renewable Energy, Power Grid Corporation, NTPC, Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE), Rural Electrification Corporation, and Power Financing Corporation to work collectively to eradicate darkness in India.

Further, to enable 24x7 PFA, PM announced a total outlay of Rs 16,320 crore and gross budgetary support (GBS) of Rs 12,320 crore to Saubhagya. Under Saubhagya GBS of Rs 10,587.5 crore and Rs 1,732.5 crore are provided for rural and urban households, respectively. With an objective of social welfare, the scheme provides free power to the poor listed in the Socio-Economic and Caste Census (SECC) 2011 data.

As per the PM, a new India requires an energy framework that works on the principle of equity, efficiency, and sustainability. Therefore, the marginalised section of society needs financial support to power their home. BEE has been constantly working on saving electricity consumption, thereby enhancing access to electricity for more households.

It is estimated that the powering of an additional 40 million households, which includes 10 million under DDUGJY, may need 80,000 million units per annum, which means a supplementary capacity installation of 28,000 MW. As sustainable energy is key to New India’s energy plan, grid connected as well as decentralised renewable energy power could play a crucial role in meeting the additional demand.

Power to all intends to benefit millions of children and women suffering from ‘electricity poverty’. Enhanced access to electricity would open up new avenues for education, income generation, entertainment, happiness, and prosperity in India.

The author is the Head of Department of Management Studies at the Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Petroleum Technology

Source- DNA