Ankita Chakrabarty/ Zee Research Group
Six years into existence, UPA government’s flagship rural electrification programme ‘Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojna’ (RGGVY), is running in deficit.
Official statistics furnished by the Power Ministry show that the rural electrification drive under RGGVY has fallen below its own stipulated target by about 6.6 per cent. A cumulative achievement report of the Power Ministry said that as of March 31, 2011, as against a target of 1,11,062 villages, only 96,562 villages were actually electrified.
With an overall deficit, a state-wise performance revealed that Bihar and Jharkhand were among the worst performers with a huge gap in the target set and the achievement recorded. Also, northeastern states performed negatively in this regard.
However, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Karnataka and Uttarakhand were successful in achieving their respective targets. As per the cumulative report of the ministry, no fresh targets had been set for the period under review for states like Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Haryana, Kerala and Punjab.
As per Cumulative Achievement under RGGVY, Bihar had been set a target to electrify 23,211villages but only 20,981 villages were actually electrified. Also, for the state of Jharkhand the target set was 19,334 villages but only 17,181 villages were electrified.
SL Rao, ex-chairman of Central Electricity Regulatory Commission (CERC) (1998-2001), said, “It is not difficult to explain the negative performance of states like Jharkhand and Bihar. Electricity is supplied from the National Grid. Urban areas get top priority in such supply and they are able to meet the expenses. Rural customers are below the cost.”
Rao said under current tariff plans affordability was a major issue, hence the need for government to promote renewable sources of energy like solar power, wind power and others utilizing the efforts from the local Panchayat.
EAS Sarma, former secretary, Ministry of Power (1998-2001) further elaborated by saying, “Jharkhand has large tribal tracts, sparsely populated, where it is difficult to lay rural power lines. Even the Panchayats, which maintain street lighting, are financially weak and they are not in a position to pay for the electricity they consume.”
Among the northeastern states, the target set for the state of Meghalaya was 1,766 but only 150 of them were electrified. Arunachal Pradesh and Assam also performed negatively.
India’s Integrated Energy Policy (IEP) expert group chief Kirit Parikh opined, “The northeastern states are sparsely populated. They are not well connected. 70-80 percent of the area is under forest cover. State electricity boards are not functioning well. Also the cost of power transmission is more.”
Orissa, Rajasthan and Chattisgarh were also among the states which were unable to achieve their respective targets. Sarma further lamented, “The state should accord a higher priority to providing electricity by allocating more funds in their budgets. Also, rural electrification should be viewed as an integral part of poverty alleviation programmes as the households then can then use electricity for productive purposes.”