- SAMARTH BANSAL
“As of April 1, 2015, according to government numbers, 18,452 Indian villages were still un-electrified.” File Photo
One major source of discrepancy is regarding those villages where the GVA has noted that the village is un-electrified, yet it is counted as electrified on the app. The Hindu was able to spot over 30 such villages on the app after scanning through GVAs’ comments. When this discrepancy was pointed out, a senior official of the Rural Electrification Corporation (REC), the nodal agency for rural electrification which functions under the aegis of the Ministry of Power, said: “We put a lot of emphasis on photos. If there is a pole and distribution line visible in the photos, we call it electrified.” This perhaps could be one of the reasons leading to the inflated number, as the presence of electrical infrastructure doesn’t automatically translate into electrification.
Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in his Budget speech of 2016 said that the number of villages electrified in the last year was more than the combined number in the past three years. This claim may not be true, as The Hindu found that of the 7,000-plus villages said to be electrified last year, 3,604 villages were assigned the status, “Village found electrified during the survey.” This means that these villages were found electrified when GVAs first visited there. The REC official explained, “It is difficult to say when the work was done as the GVA visits started in October 2015. It could have happened after April 2015 (when the list of un-electrified villages was prepared in consultation with State governments), maybe two years ago or even earlier.” Conversations with GVAs and comments from the dashboard indicate that perhaps even the list of un-electrified villages was an overestimate. For instance, Changlang (Arunachal Pradesh) was electrified in 2001, Farbandhia Kahar (Assam) in 2012 and Mahdaili (Bihar) in 2013. But they were shown as un-electrified on the April 2015 list. It is also worth noting that work is ongoing even in villages declared as electrified; called “intensive electrification”, this aims to cover all households and not just 10 per cent.
Here, the light goes out of their lives at sunset
For residents of two villages in Bijnor district of Uttar Pradesh, their ‘electrified’ status on paper is a cruel joke. Read more