While the government blows its own trumpet claiming rural electrification milestones, the case of Brahampuri, makes one question the quality of such public amenities.
Let us, for a moment, assume that the Prime Minister’s announcement about electricity reaching the last Indian village holds water. For the rural population, it would mean better economic prospects, a safer and healthier environment especially in remote areas, and a better quality of life, overall. But for the residents of Brahampuri, a village in Bihar’s Sitamarhi district which has been electrified for over five years, access to electricity does not mean any of these things. The electricity poles in their village are makeshift, made of bamboo sticks, literally.
Electricity poles, in essence, are utility poles used to support electricity wires that are supposed to be made of materials that are bad conductors of electricity, most often cement. But in Brahampuri, the Electricity Department has installed bamboo poles which are susceptible to strong gusts of wind and often come down on houses and people, causing much harm. Moreover, although bamboo is a bad conductor of electricity, it does transmit electricity when wet, making the rains a nightmare for the resident of Brahampuri who can easily get electrocuted.
Community Correspondent Guddi Kumari says that the village has mostly Mahadalit families, a section of the population already deprived of basic amenities and social and economic opportunities in Bihar, and in most other parts of the country. The government’s rural electrification policy states that one of the defining criteria for an “electrified village” is that basic electricity infrastructure like transformers and transmission lines should be provided in the said inhabited locality and in associated Dalit settlements. This is so because Dalit settlements are often left behind; outside of the main village and outside of the provision of most public facilities.
The use of bamboo poles holding up electricity poles is neither new nor unique to Sitamarhi. In February 2017, Community Correspondent Mamta Kumari reported on a similar case from Kaimur, another district in Bihar. Over the years, similar reports have also emerged from Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh and Assam. In Jharkhand, interestingly, the authorities blamed the local residents for “pressing for connections” and argued that they had no option but to install bamboo poles. In Uttar Pradesh, the matter reached the state assembly and then Cabinet Minister Shivpal Yadav responded by saying that the state would enact a policy to replace all bamboo poles with regular electric poles. It is appalling that it takes a change in policy to ensure basic service quality.
The story of Brahampuri, and other places with similar problems, shows that even if the government does meet its numerical targets for a particular scheme, the quality does not necessarily add up. As a result, the delivery of the scheme then means little to its beneficiaries.
The community in Brahampuri has approached the District Executive Engineer with an application to install proper poles. Support their demand by calling the concerned official at +91-7763818993 and urge them to take immediate action.
Video by Community Correspondent Guddi Kumari
Article by Alankrita Anand, a member of the VV Editorial Team