Electrification: UPA too, deserves credit

Electrification of all villages announced by the government on Sunday marks an important milestone in development. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said that the government was able to provide power to 18,452 villages that remained to be electrified when the UPA government lost power. He also said that this was done 12 days ahead of the 1000-day target he had set in 2015. This is a welcome achievement because taking electricity to all villages has been a national aim for many decades. The scale of the task becomes clear from the fact that there are about six lakh villages in the country. The NDA government did well to complete the work, but its claim of speedier execution than in the past will be disputed. The UPA government electrified 12,030 villages a year during its tenure while the NDA government electrified 4,842 villages a year. Even if the last few villages are the most difficult and inaccessible, the UPA’s record cannot be belittled.

Though the achievement is laudable, the country has much more distance to cover before it achieves full electrification in the real sense. A village is considered to be electrified if 10% of its households and public institutions like schools are electrified. Only in that limited sense has full electrification been achieved in India. About 41 million households, accounting for 17% of the total, do not have power, and the figure is above 40% in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand. The real challenge now is to achieve universal electrification, which means taking power to all households, by the March 2019 target. The real benefit of electrification can be realised only if quality power is available to every consumer without interruption for as long as it is required at affordable rates. This is not easy to achieve in the present conditions.

The power sector is riddled with problems and the reforms undertaken by successive governments have had only limited success. Transmission and distribution problems and losses, uneconomical tariffs and mismanagement of power boards are some of the issues that need to e addressed. No development is possible without electricity, as it is part of the basic infrastructure of the economy. The social benefits are also considerable. It removes drudgery and improves the quality of life. The next big task is to take power to the last person in the country. The credit for the achievement should be shared by the present and past governments. If the present government claims full credit for electrification of all villages, it will be like the runner in the last lap of a relay race taking all credit for the victory in the race.

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Electrification: UPA too, deserves credit

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