De‘lighting’ India!

‘Leisang’, a village in Manipur, in a remote corner of India was electrified on 28th April, 2018 and all the villages of the country were declared as (de)lighted, by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, as the government fulfilled its target of electrifying all the villages across the country days ahead of its set deadline. It is a big achievement for a country, as vast and as geographically diverse as India, were transporting and setting up the infrastructure needed for the electricity supply is an extremely difficult job. For the past 3 years the air force pilots and helicopters were used in some cases, and in others, this task was done by crossing fragile bridges and unkempt roads.

Roads and electricity can be considered as two of the most important infrastructure facilities which are the means to reach the end of a ‘good quality of life’, and also for a democracy to function successfully. Both roads and electricity increase connectivity, not only connecting people, but also their ideas, culture, problems and grievances. The idea of belongingness and inclusiveness are inculcated through this connectivity. Thus the achievement of electrifying the last village of the country is indeed praiseworthy, and is a step forward to let the voice of the man at the last corner of the country, to reach till the government. The comment of one of the villagers in Leisang, while celebrating the arrival of ‘power’ in the village is expressive enough, “We’ll be able to see the news. We’ll be able to connect with the world.”

This success will used by the Union Government as a ace card for the upcoming political battles, and the 2019 General elections. Political significance of this achievement can be understood by looking at the great struggle and debate taking place between the current NDA Government and the major opposition and the ex- ruling party- Indian National Congress about to whom does the credit of this achievement goes. With the Congress claiming of having completed most of the job, of electrifying 5,79,012 villages, while the BJP, just left to electrify the remaining 18,452 villages.

In between all this ‘power’ struggle of grabbing the credit, it should be kept in mind that electrifying the villages does not equal electrifying households of the villages. The government considers a village electrified only if it has basic electrical infrastructure and 10 percent of its households and public places including schools, local administrative offices and health centers electrified. Which means that even today 90% of the households still remain in the darkness.

Hence the next big challenge before the government is to make power supply available to the remaining 32 million people of the country, which is a very big target to achieve, and it will be interesting to see how the government, rejoicing over the present, relatively small achievement(compared to the challenges that lay ahead) achieves its ambitious project of completing the set target by December 31st , 2018.

Apart from this, there are other challenges that lay in front of the government- first, to provide ‘quality power supply’ to country. Inspite of have the infrastructure for power supply, i.e. wires from the power plants, many parts of the country, especially the villages, face almost 12 to 13 hours of load shedding. The state governments face the biggest challenge of Transmission and Distribution loss, caused due to reasons like inadequate investment in this sector in order to undertake improvement work, leading to unplanned extensions of distribution lines, overloading of system elements like transformers and conductors, also electricity theft is one of the major reasons for Transmission and Distribution loss. This problem results into electricity being generated but not reaching the intended consumer.
Other challenge is to continue providing electricity at a subsidized rate along with setting policies and plans for pulling the State electricity boards from facing losses. The subsidies provided by the state governments for agricultural purposes or to the dalits and the BPL population are made up by collecting tariffs from big industries. But most of the states are facing heavy losses and are burdened with huge debts. A more rational tariff and subsidy policy can help in this front. Though there are exceptions like the state of Tamil Nadu and Himachal Pradesh which are successful in reducing their Transmission and Distribution Loss and has implemented a successful subsidy policy respectively.

Along with this there are new and more serious problem waiting to be addressed especially for a developing country like India.  With an ever increasing need for power and Global Warming becoming a problem of global concern, India needs to invest more and more in renewable energy as around 53% of its commercial electricity demand is met by coal reserves of the country which is disastrous for the environment.

With all these major challenges waiting to be addressed, the present achievement can be seen as a very small stepping stone towards achieving much larger goals and thus instead of engaging in the immature political fight of claiming credits, it will be beneficial for the country as a whole to focus on the important challenges waiting to be addressed.

Picture: Representational Image Only (Credits – NDTV.com)



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