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

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From ‘Connections for All’ to ‘Power for All’

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.

A lot has been written since the government launched the Pradhan Mantri Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojana (Saubhagya) for universal household electrification in September 2017 and subsequently announced the electrification of all villages in April 2018. In fact, significant progress has been made with respect to village electrification and providing electricity connections to rural households, for over a decade. During this period, rural electrification has evidenced a paradigm shift from demand-driven village electrification programmes of the 1950s to the 1990s, to small targeted household electrification drives between the 1980s and 2005. But, concerted efforts began with the Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojana (RGGVY) in 2005 that aimed to provide free electricity connections to rural households below the poverty line (BPL), besides creating rural electricity infrastructure. This was followed by successive central government schemes, which were based on similar programme design. The vision behind these schemes was to provide quality, reliable, and affordable power to enable livelihood and productive activities, such that electrification catalyses development (SCoE 2018; PEO 1965). This has been the vision for electrification the world over and has been central to electrification drives in the United States, China, Thailand, Brazil and South Africa (Barnes 2007; Niaz 2010). This article takes stock of the achievements1 of rural electrification in India till date, and discusses the next many goalposts to meet the political commitment towards reliable and affordable power for all made by various successive governments.

The state electricity boards (SEBs) set up immediately after independence had the mandate to supply electricity beyond the major cities. Rural electrification was then a by-product of electrifying towns, and villages near the grid benefited. With the advent of the green revolution, the focus of rural electrification was also to provide impetus to the use of electric pumpsets among farmers, especially in Punjab, Haryana, Maharashtra, Gujarat and the southern states. A lot of these efforts were also strengthened and sustained due to farmers’ demands.

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Updated On : 19th Nov, 2018

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