Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday blamed the previous Congress-led regimes as also the party's leader Sonia Gandhi for not meeting the promise of electrifying all villages by 2009.
He said Gandhi, who was then the Congress president, had gone overboard by promising that all households will be electrified by 2009.
"When our government came to power, there were 18,000 unelectrified villages. Earlier governments made many promises to provide electricity but those were not fulfilled. Nothing was done in that direction," Modi said while interacting with beneficiaries of the Rs 16,320-crore Pradhan Mantri Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojana (Saughagya).
"In 2005, about 13 years ago, at that time there was a Congress government, Manmohan Singh was the Prime Minister. They promised to provide electricity to all villages by 2009. The then Congress President (Gandhi) went overboard and said electricity will be provided to all households by 2009," he said.
Under the Saubhagya scheme, the Modi government plans to electrify about 3.6 crore households in the country by March 31, 2019. The government trying to meet the target by December 31 this year.
Earlier this month, power ministers of all states and union territories were unanimous on electrifying all households in the country by December 31, 2018, during the Power Ministers Conference in Shimla.
Modi said those who considered doing public welfare should have gone to villages, asked about electrification, prepared reports and talked about civil society on this. "Then it was possible, that electrification of households would have been completed by 2010 or 2011. But at that time, promised were not met because there was no serious leader."
He further said that when his government takes its promises seriously, then all efforts are made by the opposition to find shortcomings.
"I believe that this is the strength of a democracy that we try to do good and where there is a shortcoming, highlight that and correct it," he said.
Modi said the government plans to electrify nearly 4 crore households under the Saubhagya scheme, while 80-85 lakh of these have already been electrified. Poor families will get free electricity connection.
"You must be listening to speeches of opposition. They talk about a number of unelectrified households. Don't think that this is our criticism. That is their criticism. This is the criticism of those who were running governments for past 70 years. They have kept the electrification work pending for us. We are trying to complete that," he said.
Talking further about the scheme, he said: "If four crore families are not electrified then it does not mean that those households had electricity and the Modi government has cut supplies. There was nothing in place. We are trying to create infrastructure for electrification."
The Prime Minister said: "Criticise Modi as much as you can but all those people at villages who work hard to bring light (electrification) should be honoured. We should try to encourage them. Our job is not to count problems but to find remedies for those."
He said everybody wants optimum utilisation of time for progress, but if 12 hours from the day are reduced then what can people do. "You would not able to complete your tasks. Lakhs of people living in remote villages lived this kind of life. They had an active life between sunrise and sunset (only). Availability of sun lights used to determine their working hours."
Interacting with the Prime Minister, beneficiaries from far off villages shared their experiences as to how electricity has transformed their lives. Most of them said there has been an overall improvement in the quality of life.