Rural electrification under the government’s flagship programme, Deendayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana (DDUGJY), ended on a high note last year with the annual target being exceeded. Against the target of electrifying 7,000 villages in 2015-16, a total of 7,108 villages were electrified.
Rural electrification is being taken up in mission mode under the DDUGJY in order to meet the prime minister’s deadline to electrify every village in the country by May 2018. As of September 20, 2016, as many as 589,806 out of the 597,464 census villages have been electrified, implying an achievement of almost 99 per cent. With the pace at which programme implementation is progressing, the government expects to electrify all villages by March 2017, almost a year before the deadline. Meanwhile, as the government is now nearing the 100 per cent electrification mark, it has shifted its focus to 100 per cent household electrification. Currently at a 65 per cent level, the government plans to meet the target by March 2019.
A look at the current status of rural electrification, the achievements, the key challenges faced and future plans…
As per the definition of electrification, notified by the Ministry of Power (MoP) in February 2004, 98.7 per cent of the total inhabited villages have been electrified till now. Ten states – Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Goa, Gujarat, Haryana, Kerala, Maharashtra, Punjab, Sikkim and Tamil Nadu – have achieved 100 per cent village electrification. As of March 2015, 18,452 villages were unelectrified across the remaining 19 states. Of these, 7,108 villages were electrified during 2015-16.
During 2016-17, over 3,100 villages have been electrified till September 2016. Further, around 560 of the unelectrified villages have been found to be uninhabited. Hence, 7,658 villages remain to be electrified as of September 20, 2016. Of these, 157 villages are under energisation and 969 villages are in progress. Electrification of the remaining 6,532 villages is yet to be started; however, projects for all these villages have already been sanctioned. Of the sanctioned villages, 2,891 are yet to be awarded.
In order to track the progress of implementation, close monitoring is being done through gram vidyut abhiyantas (GVAs). GVAs have been appointed at the block and district levels and are responsible for carrying out regular field visits, submitting progress reports and ensuring timely completion of all works. The progress is being reviewed on a regular basis through monthly review, planning and monitoring meetings by the MoP.
Issues and concerns
Despite these efforts, there has been a slippage in the targeted number of villages to be electrified per month. Bihar, Odisha and Jharkhand have been the biggest non-performers in 2016-17 (till August). While Bihar and Odisha are behind their targeted number of electrified villages by around 550, Jharkhand is lagging behind by around 420 villages. Thus, while the government expected to electrify all villages by December 2016, the electrification of around 600 villages (mainly in Bihar and Chhattisgarh) is now expected to go beyond December 2016 to March 2017, which, however, is still ahead of the initial target of May 2018.
The delay in awarding sanctioned projects is the biggest reason for this slippage. In Arunachal Pradesh, the award of over 1,200 projects is delayed. In Odisha and Jharkhand, about 600 and 430 projects respectively are yet to be awarded. In some of these cases, the delay can be attributed to the delay in obtaining forest, railway and other relevant clearances. The other issues being faced include slow progress in remote and Naxal-affected villages, unsatisfactory performance of some implementing agencies, and delays in the submission of detailed project reports by the states.
In terms of households, around 65 per cent of the total rural households have been electrified till date. Only Gujarat, Punjab and Andhra Pradesh have achieved electrification of all households. In Tamil Nadu, Himachal Pradesh and Goa, around 99 per cent of households have been electrified. Bihar is the worst performer, followed by Uttar Pradesh. As per government data, while 98 per cent of Bihar’s villages are electrified, only around 14 per cent homes have electricity connections. In Uttar Pradesh, where 99 per cent of the villages are electrified, only 29 per cent of households have electricity connections. In Jharkhand, 37 per cent households have electricity access with 93 per cent of villages electrified, and in Assam, 34 per cent households have access to electricity, with 91 per cent of villages electrified.
Besides unconnected households, the unsatisfactory quality and duration of electricity supply are other factors that limit the impact and meaning of electrification. According to a Council of Energy, Environment and Water report, “Access to Clean Cooking Energy and Electricity, Survey of States”, in Bihar, only 18 per cent of the electrified households get 20 or more hours of electricity supply and only 30 per cent get four or more hours of evening supply. Similarly, in Uttar Pradesh, only 5 per cent of the electrified households get supply for 20 or more hours, while 23 per cent get four or more hours of evening supply.
As mentioned above, the 7,658 villages that remain to be electrified are expected to be electrified by March 2017. Of these, 4,929 villages are planned to be electrified through the grid, 2,550 villages through off-grid systems and 179 villages under the various state plans. Meanwhile, the government is working on the energisation of villages, organisation of camps for releasing household connections and rectification of any discrepancies observed during the electrification process. The government also plans to undertake an impact assessment study of village electrification with the help of GVAs.
In June 2016, at the Conference of Power, Renewable Energy and Mines Ministers of states/union territories, the states agreed to complete the electrification of all households by March 2019. To begin with, the states are working towards electrifying all households in the 18,452 villages that were unelectrified as of March 2015. All the households in these villages are targeted to be connected by May 2017. To expedite implementation and achieve 100 per cent household electrification on priority, and support the states, the MoP is considering adjustments in intercomponent allocation of funds sanctioned under the DDUGJY. Meanwhile, the Rural Electrification Corporation is also working on a scheme to provide long-term loans to states that agree to offer free new electricity connections. The scheme is expected to cover the funding of expenses including those for the laying of lines and installation of meters.
The progress under the DDUGJY has been much faster as compared to the Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojana. However, while all the villages may well be electrified soon, there is still a long way to go before India achieves electrification in the true sense. With more than a third of rural households still without access to electricity, the government has a mammoth task ahead of it. Efforts are being made and results are showing. Continued efforts and regular monitoring will be important for the achievement of the goal of 100 per cent village as well as household electrification. Apart from the electrification of households, greater focus is also required on improving the quality and reliability of electricity supply.