Impact

Rural Electrification: From Numerical Targets to Quality Checks

Almost all households in Delwara, Rajasthan, have been electrified. But merely installing infrastructure to check target boxes is not enough.

In the run up to the March 2019 deadline, households and villages across the country are being electrified in a race against time. As part of #BattiGul, a campaign we launched in response to PM Modi’s statement on electricity having reached all Indian villages, we are monitoring government claims on numerical targets and documenting the quality of the service, especially in rural areas. While live, exposed wires were found in Rajasthan, bamboo poles are being used to hold the wires up in Bihar. And in many places where electrification exists according to government records, poles and wires are found to be merely ornamental.

In Delwara, a village in Rajasthan’s Rajsamand district, only two households await electricity connection. according to government data. Most other households had been electrified by October 2017. But Community Correspondent Shambhulal Khatik found that not all families in the village were elated about the connection. For the Yadav settlement around the Bheruji Bhauji Chowk, electricity poles set up too close to people’s homes and live wires carelessly cast aside were only a source of worry.

“When it rains, the body of the pole transmits current. And the loose wires are also dangerous. This is the area our children play in, what if they get electrocuted? Animals also get electrocuted” says Rani Yadav, mother to a toddler. Residents of the neighbourhood had written to the Panchayat twice about the problem. “Someone from the Electricity Department came and said that they would move the poles away but no action was taken”, says Basanti Bai Yadav, another resident.

Live wires are known to be particularly dangerous, and in the rains, the risk of electrocution deaths is the highest. Earlier this year, hearing a petition demanding compensation for an electrocution death, the Punjab and Haryana High Court ruled that sagging electricity wires amount to negligence. In Delwara, the wires were simply lying on the path along people’s homes. Fortunately, the chance of a major crisis was averted.

When Shambhulal heard of the problem, he first held a meeting with the community about the issue and produced a video using an inbuilt editing app on his tablet. Then, he worked with the community to write another application, addressing it directly to the Electricity Department this time. Shambhulal also spoke to the Executive Engineer of the Department and sent him the video documenting the state of the infrastructure on WhatsApp.

Owing to the combined efforts, the Electricity Department was quick to respond, and the poles and wires were soon moved to a safe distance. Shambhulal’s video is an example of how citizens and communities can use basic communication technology like their smartphones and messaging apps to report gaps in the services they’re entitled to push for better accountability from those in power.

Video by Community Correspondent Shambhulal Khatik

Article by Alankrita Anand, a member of the VV Editorial Team

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