ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Rural Electrification in India

Over the past decade and a half, India has evidenced substantial investments in rural electrification. As per official estimates, 100% village electrification and over 90% household connections have been achieved. But, if this investment is to return rural development dividends, it is important to focus on the issues of affordability, sufficiency, and quality of electricity supply, especially for small consumers. Without this, there is a danger that the new rural infrastructure will fall to disuse, as had happened in states like Bihar and Uttar Pradesh after the first wave of rural electrification. Both policies and politics need to shift focus from universal connections to upgradation of quality of supply and services.

What Has the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana Achieved So Far?

The central government’s flagship programme to provide free liquefied petroleum gas connections has been in operation for two years, providing more than 3.5 crore free LPG connections to poor women. This much-needed scheme is a major step to reduce indoor air pollution, drudgery faced by women, and one that promises to extend LPG access. However, little is known about the progress of the scheme. Has it led to sustained use of clean fuels among poor households? There is need for more information about the scheme in the public domain for a comprehensive evaluation and mid-course correction.

From LPG Connections to Use

The Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana, to provide concessional LPG connections, is a step in the right direction but much more needs to be done by 2019 and beyond to ensure homes in India cook using modern fuels. This article explores the issues of providing connections, subsidy provisioning and ensuring sustained use of LPG and other modern fuels, so as to displace solid fuels from Indian kitchens. It also highlights the need for planning for increased demand and addressing institutional gaps to ensure that the benefits of modern fuel adoption, especially health benefits, are realised.

Power for All

Power for All is the new programme to provide 24×7 electricity to the entire population by 2019. There have been many such plans in the past which have failed. What have we learnt from those experiences? There remain many concerns about the way the new programme is being formulated and executed. The major challenge in PFA is in providing quality, affordable power to rural areas and small consumers. However, the PFA plans do not adequately address these challenges. Based on a study of publicly available state PFA plans and documents, this article raises some key concerns and offers suggestions for a course correction.

Bailing Out Unaccountability

The centre has approved a fi nancial restructuring plan to deal with the losses of state electricity distribution companies, which are around Rs 1.9 lakh crore, or more than 2% of the country's gross domestic product. There is little doubt that the crisis is a result of the companies, state electricity regulatory commissions, state and central governments, and banks failing to ensure the existing legal provisions were implemented. While this bailout may be unavoidable, the plan does not address the issue of institutional accountability that is at the root of this crisis.
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