Source: The Hitavada      Date: 18 Jul 2017 12:34:55

IT is most pathetic that even after 70 years of getting Independence, nearly 304 million of countrymen still have no access to electricity. A Niti Aayog report released recently has lamented that despite the Government undertaking rural electrification drive in a big way, the situation has not improved much. At this rate, it would be extremely difficult to meet the target set by Prime Minister Mr. Nrendra Modi in his Red Fort address in 2015 to electrify 18,452 villages before the deadline ends on May 1, 2018. 

During the previous UPA regime, the power situation in the country was extremely critical. Lengthy power cuts were regular in most of the cities. Several industries were forced to work in truncated shifts, affecting their production, resulting in huge layoff of workers. The situation was so precarious that several thermal power plants were on the verge of closure with no sufficient coal stock available with them. Things, however, started changing with the NDA Government coming to power.

Coal supply to power plants was streamlined, power generation capacity of many power plants was augmented and speedy permission was granted to private parties to set up power plants. All this resulted in boosting power generation and lengthy power cuts have become a thing of the past, at least in urban areas. However, as the Niti Aaayog report suggests, the situation in rural India continues to remain pathetic as several villages still do not have access to electricity. This is despite the fact that the Prime Minister is laying emphasis on speedy rural electrification.

The Government, instead of celebrating the laurels of improving overall power situation in the country, must look inward and take the report of Niti Aayog seriously. The people have rejected the previous UPA Government for its poor performance on all fronts and have reposed their faith in Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi with the hope that their lives would be better under him. The Government must meet the expectations of the people. It must deliver on the promise made to them before the country goes to the polls in 2019.

The Niti Aayog report has highlighted some inherent flaws in the Power Ministry’s approach. It has pointed out that there are several States with high electrification rates but they still have poor household electrification. So, instead of stopping at electrifying villages, the Government must further ensure that electricity reaches each and every household in the village. Niti Aayog has also stressed the need to redefine the concept of electrification. The village should be deemed completely electrified only when all households have a power connection with a reliable power supply at least for a set number of hours. These recommendations are vital because they would help in removing ambiguities and present a true picture about electrification.

Since Independence, every election in the country was contested on the plank of promising ‘bijli, sadak aur paani’. Unfortunately, none of these three basic needs of the people were met by the successive Governments. There can’t be any other bigger fraud than this played on the gullible people by the political class. But enough is enough now.

The Government of the day must put a full stop to this ill practice. All the talks of making India a developed nation would go phut if the status quo continues. When the Government can improve the power scenario in cities, it can as well do so in rural areas. But, it would require a big push to achieve the target of total rural electrification. The Government must pull up socks urgently to fulfill the promise made to the people.