For most of us living in metros and born in post liberalisation era, “Electricity is our way of life, without it our lives would perish”. A day without electricity is something many of us can’t even imagine, speaking of villages 84.9% of Indian villages have electricity line. The picture thus seems to be rosy one but it isn’t. According to a planning commission report of 2014 as many as 600 million Indians do not have access to electricity. Hardly 46% of rural households have access to electricity and majority of these households receive electricity for one hour per day or less.
A basic reason for this is power is on the concurrent list of Indian constitution. Thus when asked about the abysmal power situation in villages those in government find it easy to pass the buck. The states blame the centre and vice versa but the situation on ground does not change. The peak power deficit-the gap between demand and supply in the summer of 2010-according to the Government’s own calculations was 10.8 per cent. Losses in distribution average over 30 per cent across India. At the Centre, the power, environment, coal and heavy industries ministries have in various ways acted as obstacles to the addition of capacity.
The Central Electricity Authority (CEA), the main advisory body to the Union power minister, has set a target of 100,000 mw of additional power generation in the period of the 12th five-year plan between 2012 and 2017. That is what is needed to meet the power demand of an economy forecast to grow at 9 per cent per annum. Seventy per cent of this additional capacity is to be added through coal-based thermal power but data from last 20 years shows that only an average of 50.5 per cent of overall targets were met in the eighth, ninth and tenth five-year plans between 1992 and 2007.Every major political formation has governed the country in that period none has much to be proud of in terms of performance in the power sector.
Thus to even imagine that villages would be getting adequate power supply over next few decades by expansion of grids or by increasing production would be like building castles in the air, but this situation can be an opportunity for exploring new frontiers. Renewable sources of energy can be a way forward in dealing with this situation, and that too a sustainable one. The amount of untapped potential of electricity generation from renewable resources is very high and effective utilization of same can lead to an “energy miracle”. It can completely overhaul the power sector in India. In long run electrification done through renewable resources is low cost and subsidies provided by government further help in reduction in cost.

If rural areas get adequate electricity, schools can function properly in all seasons unlike the present condition when in winter and rainy seasons low visibility affects their functioning. If there is enough electricity to run a single projector in every school then kids can be taught via smart classes and this could be boon to them in terms of their career.

Off late there has been lot of talk about digital India. There is a long term plan of making most of paper work like ration card, passport etc. and other government initiatives completely online. For the villagers to have access to these facilities they need to get adequate power supply and thus rural electrification becomes even more important.
In the end I would conclude by quoting Gandhi Ji, “India lives in its villages” and so for India as a nation to develop at fast pace in 21st century and for living conditions of our citizens to improve rural electrification is not a choice but a necessity.
And Watt A Village, has been working on the fore front to garner support & spread awareness to bring this issue up. I feel a sense of pride & responsibility in spreading the noble cause far & wide. Do remember to like & share it if you are moved by the cause of rural electrification. Your comments on the issue are most welcome.

A slight mutatis mutandis to a quote given by our beloved Spiderman, “With Great power” comes great Electricity Bill! Yes the original quote was true as well as this connotation holds true in today’s time. Power/Electricity should now be conferred as a status quo that everyone cannot afford, not our backward villages at least. Talking about these villages, here is a startling fact about India, around 412 million Indians have no access to electricity and about 90% of them form part of the rural population. And as disappointing as it is, the irony is that these people are the people who actually feed the rest of the population of India who work in the scorching heat, chilly winters and what not. Should not they be equally eligible for the basic comfort of electricity after the mammoth efforts they put in their fields just to feed the people sitting in their Air Conditioned cubicles doing nothing but manipulations and exploitation of the resources that can be put to a much good use?
It holds so true that “ Our generation is better prepared for a Zombie Apocalypse than an hour without electricity”, then why squander such an important resource which can be used to bring a change in the lives of people who live in the rural ghetto of India. About 668 million or around 70% of the Indians (in 6.4 lakh villages) live in rural areas and continue to use animal dung, agricultural waste and fuel wood as fuel for cooking. They do not have access to even a basic fan or a tubelight.

This is why there is a need to address the conundrum of Rural Electrification as soon as possible. Rural Electrification is basically a paradigm shift of thoughts of concentrating on the need to electrify the villages of India which do not have any access to electricity whatsoever. Hitherto, various programmes have been undertaken by the Government and various other organisations to address this issue but they have not been able to completely absorb the concern because of lack of public support and interest.

As quoted by Thomas Edison in 1931, “I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don’t have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that.”

But with the emergence of Solar Power and the benefits one can reap of it, are truly palatable. Solar energy can help Electrify our villages in an efficient way as the solar power is the last resource that is not owned yet, as nobody “taxes” the sun yet! Government has taken steps to tackle this important issue by setting up Rural Electrification Corporation Limited (REC) and various schemes such as Pradhan Mantri Gram Vidyut Yojna, inter alia. But the government and various NGO’s working for the cause need people’s support in view of people taking lead from examples of countries like Costa Rica which became the first country to get all its needs from renewable sources mostly from solar power or from people who have set up Solar power panels on their rooftop providing additional electricity to the grid and thus transferring that extra electricity to the unelectrified villages.

Hence, the cause of Rural electrification needs to be addressed immediately so that maximum can be done for these electricity deprived villages which are of course a part of our beautiful India which shall lead all over the world in the coming years ahead.

So give the cause a thought and start now to be a part of this noble deed as all these initiatives involves full community participation to ensure the success of the endeavors.
Electrify the Villages, Villages will Em”POWER” India. And the world shall say “Watt A Village”.

An article by Sidharth Goel

In 68 years of independence, India has come a long way. Being a democratic setup, the governments did the best they could, given the complexity of the constitutional system.
Here I would like to quote a very interesting statement made by a Chinese agency to defend the ruling Communist Party when asked to compare the monopoly in China with its giant democratic neighbor. The response was, Had China followed a democratic path, “At best, China would have been another India, the world’s biggest democracy by Western Standards, where around 20 per cent of the World’s poorest live and whose democracy focuses on how power is divided.”
Though I am a supporter of democracy & do not completely agree with the above statement, but yes, my views are not very divergent from the ones mentioned in the statement above. After all, Indian governments have performed quite well, considering the ambit of complex & porous public policies. I know, these words are in stark contradiction to the usual bickering doing the rounds. Ironically, I choose to think differently for the topic at hand. I reiterate, the successive Indian governments have done well. But, here is the catch, sadly, that is not enough. India is a difficult country to govern and much more difficult is the law making process. By the time a law on food security is proposed, tabled, debated, negotiated, passed, executed, implemented, half the needy population for which it was meant either succumbs to hunger or gets into unlawful activities to feed their starving kids. It’s grim, but true picture of India. But hey, there is still hope. Since I am writing about it & you are still reading, it’s a worthy initiative to set things right.

Electricity has not been the priority since the very beginning. Why? Because we had much graver problems to deal with. Food, water, shelter, epidemics, children dying in early years. We seemed to have gotten hold of things to a large extent. And, now it’s time for the government to think beyond. Perhaps it is time to electrify the development process in rural India.

Having set the backdrop, I take up the issue at hand about government policies affecting rural electrification. No doubt, REC (Rural Electrification Corporation Ltd.) has been in existence since 25th July, 1969, under the aegis of Ministry of Power. And yes, it has been a long long road for it. It’s primary operation is to provide financial assistance to the power generation, conservation, transmission & distribution. Also, the Government of India has brought about special schemes from time to time. Like NEF (National Electricity Fund) & DDUGJY (Deen Dayal Upadhyay Gram Jyoti Yojna). They are present, but like a sweet mirage. Funding granted to these organizations is huge. Then why are our fellow citizens living in dark? Divining deep into the technicalities, I could zero in on 2 reasons – under-investment & lack of energy accounting. On the contrary, the special focus of the present government is on renewable energy. Paradox ? Not really !! Here is why…
India had an installed renewable energy base of about 20 GW, in 2011 which was around 11 per cent of the country’s total power capacity and accounts for 4 per cent of the electricity mix, further the country’s installed capacity in renewable energy had risen from about 3 percent of the total installed capacity in 2002 to over 11 per cent in 2011. India aims to take it to over 20 per cent in the next decade with a capacity of over 70 GW. This was before the present government came into power. Now, with the announcement of smart cities, the bar has been raised further upwards.
I guess, every dark spot may not be a dead end. It might be the corner just before a bright future.
Maybe I am too optimistic. Let me know. Your praise, criticism, comments are most welcome. Please comment below so that I can further improve upon my categorical articulation. And, if you liked what I wrote, don’t forget to like the post & share it. It is always encouraging to get your views & response.

An article by Vikas Mendiratta

In 2013 one of the very moving headlines of BBC was “Indian Village gets Electricity after 65 years, Villagers blame apathy of government for such a state”. These headlines would have definitely hurt the respect of several Indians because they were true but very few would have decided to do anything about it, especially the ones who are responsible for it. The lack of access to electricity in our country which is the basic indicator of rural development does not only show apathy but also the absence of any development needed for a civilisation. In many aspects we Indians are still at the phase of establishing a civilisation be it at the social or economic front, years backwards to our other counterparts.
Over the years several namesake programmes have been launched to bring electrification but they have massively failed. The UPA government after much fanfare had launched the Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojana in 2005 to bridge the urban gap and bring steady electricity to the rural areas. The scheme had targeted to provide access to electricity to all households by 2010, but it only saw deadline extensions and even provision of free electricity to BPL households was not achieved in any state. Rural electrification is not just to certify villages as being electrified or not but the major challenge is the establishment and maintenance of distribution lines and transformers. Till now the electrification programmes have been only “Show Offs”, achieving targets by grid extensions. One such statistics is that In 1990 , only 40 % of India was electrified as against 75% in 2012 but what is alarming is that even with the sharp growth in rural electrification there is little increase in actual power consumption in rural areas. The faster pace of electrification has not changed the life of an average citizen much. In fact in most states the per capita consumption of electricity has shown a fall. Madhya Pradesh, which has been projected as a model of electrification, with nearly all its villages electrified by 2011-12, shows a fall of 0.4 units in rural per capita consumption of electricity.

As of 31st March 2015 , there are still around 20,000 un-electrified villages in this country, and just to make it clear Un-electrified means that the population in these villages have never even lighted a bulb in their homes. 60% of India’s population lives in the villages , that is around 114 million households. Until and Unless benefits of development are brought to this section of the society, India will always remain just a developing country.

Another major hassle in rural areas is load shedding, in load shedding an entire feeder is switched off for about more than 15 hrs at a time ,which effects hundreds of household at a time. Electricity in rural areas is not only needed for domestic use but also for agricultural purposes. Another issue affecting the villagers is the lack of regular and reliable supply, most villages get the so called single phase power supply whereas most irrigation pumps need a three phase power supply, thus the agricultural output also gets affected.
The need of the hour is meaningful electrification where villages get actual service provision and not constant load shedding, at least as suggested by the Hindu, the government must start with 98 % supply during peak hours, if even this is not met then a village is not typically meaningfully electrified. Energy services are essential for both social and economic progress for a community,nation and society and without it none of the millennium goals can be achieved.
A research paper by a leading NGO, clearly highlights that Access to electricity in rural areas has been regarded synonymous with rural electrification, implemented through the extension of the grid. The problems of high transmission and distribution losses; frequent disruption in supply of grid power, practical difficulties and financial non-viability of extending grid to remote and inaccessible areas; dispersed population in small villages resulting in low peak loads, poor financial health of the state electricity boards, etc. are plaguing the rural electrification programme in India. Furthermore, there is a large body of evidence to show that the centralised system has not been able to balance demand and supply, resulting in inequities and environmental degradation, leaving over 40% of the Indian rural population with no access to power.
With the above said problems the government must work towards concrete solutions where there is better implementation, more monitoring and accountability, Holistic inclusion and Decentralisation of electricity. The New NDA government seems committed to the cause with major funds allocation on their way through the new Deendayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana where they are aiming for separate feeders and funds for both agriculture and rural domestic consumption. Though the Government seems to be on the right track it is still early to comment. In the end the major battle for any government will remain not just to electrify villages but also to energise them.

An Article by Anisha Ahuja

Pankaj’s village in Bharaich had no electricity for the past several years – and he had no recollection of using electricity to light up his home ever. Yet, everytime he travels to a large city, like Lucknow, he remained hopeful of turning on the switch some day.

The hope had been fading fast, and Pankaj had turned 26 – he was finished with school and had been hanging around with friends in the village. Agriculture was the main occupation and his family survived on tilling the small land holding that they had, and at times, working as washers in the cities. When the weather gods supported, they had a good crop – and that was enough to see them through a few months.

Pankaj’s life changed when he heard of a project being done around solar eletrification in a nearby district. He went to Sitapur where a small village was being electrified. On enquiring, he got a job with the company that was installing this project – and he learnt the ropes there. He was determined to get electricity into his village.

It has been three months that Semri Malma has electricity via solar – small amounts of lighting available for 30 houses cluster in the village. The lighting has changed people’s lives there. LED lighting provides, enough light to the occupants in the house to cook and eat, and for the children to study better. The kerosene lamp still lies in the house, somewhere, but not used – and smoky fumes are no longer bothering children and women in the house.

When you talk to Pankaj, there is a certain confidence in him – he says it was his dream to see his home lit – and he has been able to do better – he has got light for many more homes than just his alone.

There are many more Pankaj’s out there.. lets discover them – and change lives for the better.. lets light their lives !

When is a village termed electrified?
According to the Ministry of Power, a village is termed electrified when –

– Basic infrastructure such as Distribution Transformer and Distribution lines are provided in the inhabited locality as well as the Dalit Basti hamlet where it exists.
– Electricity is provided to public places like Schools, Panchayat Office, Health Centers, Dispensaries, Community centers etc.
– The number of households electrified should be at least 10% of the total number of households in the village.
The important figure here is 10%. An electrified village doesn’t necessarily mean that all its residents enjoy the benefits of electricity, and thus figures representing the number of electrified villages can be misleading.
Why is rural electrification important ?
In rural areas, electricity finds one more important area of deployment that is absent in urban areas and that is mechanization of many farming operations like threshing, milking and hoisting grain for storage. From an Indian perspective, this is extremely important since till this day, approximately 50 percent of the Indian population is dependent on agriculture as their source of livelihood. The novel visions of our Prime Minister won’t see the light of the day until this sector flourishes.
Like education, rural electrification too has manifold effects in the day-to-lives of a rural resident. It frees up significant amounts of human time and labour. Women across villages in India spend hours and hours on procuring water for their families. Imagine the impact it can create if these women can utilize this time spent doing arduous labour for some economic activity!
It also has a direct effect on a community’s daylight hours. People can work longer which translates to better income and better standard of living.

What are some of the positive trends in rural electrification?

Much of this improvement has been attributed to India which witnessed mass migration to powered metropolitan areas. Electrification rates in India in the year 1990 were only 43 percent as opposed to vast improvement to about 75% in 2012.
But picture abhi baaki hai…
While UTs like Lakshwadeep, Delhi and Daman and Dui record electrification rates of over 99%, Assam, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar lie on the other end of the spectrum with dismal rates of 37%, 36.8% and 16.4% only. Thus even with decent levels of electrification in the country, the widespread regional disparities are a matter of genuine concern for policymakers and regulators.

In 1990, 40 percent of the world population (2.2 billion people) still lacked power. Nineteen years later in 2009, this figure changed to 18 percent, affecting 1.456 billion people. In terms of percentage of households using electricity as their primary source of lighting, we witnessed an an increase from 55.8% in 2001 to 67.2% in 2011.
What is India’s role in this?

What are some of the policies and programmes adopted by the Indian government?
1. National Electricity Policy 2005
2. National Rural Electrification Policy, 2006

1. Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana (DDUGJY)
2. Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojana
3. Remote Village Electrification Programme
4. Village Energy Security Security programme
5. Minimum Needs Program (MNP)
6. Pradhan Mantri Gramodaya Yojana (PMGY)
7. Kutir Jyoti Scheme
8. Accelerated Rural Electrification Programme (AREP)

An Article written by Swati Gugnani