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In an Electrified Village Eleven Families Continue to Live in Darkness

Atal Jyoti Yojana has failed to deliver on its promise of 24 hours supply of power to eleven households in rural Madhya Pradesh.

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Every month Lallan Singh receives an electricity bill. The catch is that he has no access to electricity. Singh and ten other families in Sariha, a village in Madhya Pradesh spend their evenings in darkness. The village was electrified in 1995. All of it, that is, except for eleven households. “My children cannot study. We are scared of bugs at night,” rues Singh.

The Madhya Pradesh government launched the ambitious Atal Jyoti Yojana, a scheme for uninterrupted power supply to rural households, in 2013. The scheme was allotted Rs 12000 crores. The scheme further promised a separation of electricity distribution between households, farms and home-based and small industries with households receiving 24 hours of power supply and farms receiving 10 hours. But the ground reality belies this promise.

Madhya Pradesh, with 97% rural electrification has been hailed as a successful example of achieving rural electrification milestones. Research from India Lights Project using satellite images, however, reveals another story. The state has the lowest night light output (see map below). The areas in the state with higher night light output are those near urban centres like Bhopal and Indore. Tribal districts have the least access to electricity at night. In fact research shows that despite the figure of near complete rural electrification, only 86% of the households in the state actually have access to electricity.

[caption id="attachment_15136" align="aligncenter" width="1192"] Source: https://thewire.in/20050/the-social-realities-of-indias-electrification-in-one-map[/caption]

The Access Report from 2015 that analysed access to power across several states found that affordability remains an issue for poorer households ability to access electricity. The irony is that the state has 4 functional thermal power plants and 12 hydro power projects producing nearly 6000 Megawatts. But Lallan Singh and his neighbours only have the fake electricity bills to show for this while living in complete darkness. “When we get electricity, then I will pay the bill. This issue should be investigated,” says an embittered Singh.

In a commendable move, in February 2017 the Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a push to increase funding towards renewable energy. This will include solar powered street lights in villages. But what use are street lights to people who are forced to perform essential household chores by the weak light of polluting kerosene lamps? The state and central government are making ambitious plans and tall promises. It is time to deliver on these promises and execute the schemes for effective electrification at the grassroots and not just on paper.

Article by Madhura Chakraborty.

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