Lighting Rural India

In the pre-historic era our forefathers used fire to light their houses. With evolution came other sources like clay lamps, candles, oil lamps etc. Today in urban and metropolitan cities we use electricity in our houses, but for the poor villages this is still a dream. While we have taken 24*7 electricity supply for granted, the government is working hard to erase the urban-rural dichotomy.

One-fourth of the household’s in rural India still uses kerosene as the main source of energy. There are some major black spot on the Indian map with Bihar at 73.5%, Uttar Pradesh at 58.5% and Assam at 43.3% still using kerosene. But after darkness there is light. The Indian Government and NGOs have been working hard to help people convert to the cleaner source- electricity from kerosene as their primary source of energy. The progress in usage of electricity is slow as electricity as a key source of energy in Rural India has increased from 48% at the beginning of the millennium to 72.7% in 2012.

The Government of India is working under the scheme “Deendayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana” for rural electrification. By the end of June 2015, electricity was provided to more than 1.1 lakh un-electrified villages. While intensive electrification was provided to 3.20 lakh plus partially electrified villages. The scheme seems to be paying off. As per the Central Electricity Authority (CEA), 96.7% of Indian villages have access to electricity in India. A mere 19,706 of 6 lakh plus villages are left to be covered.

Another evident trend is that most of the households using kerosene or other source of energy, belong to the economically poor quantile. The Power Ministry under the above scheme in all probability is trying to address this problem. It has provided more than 220 lakh BPL (Below the Poverty Line) households with free electricity connections. Going ahead the government plans to provide electricity to another 14 lakh BPL households in FY 16 under its Rural Electrification Scheme. Of these, majority (85%) are from the three states – Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, with Bihar having the lion’s share of 58% of 14 lakh households. A quick check reveals that in the first quarter of FY16, the ministry has been able to meet 19.4% of its target. 100% in Sikkim, 89% in Kerala and 80% in Assam of the targeted households have already been enlightened.

Provision of electricity and power connections to these households is useless if it can’t be supported by adequate power generation. To support the surge in usage of electricity the country has also been adding to the production capacity. India today has a power generation capacity of 272 GW, this capacity has grown a staggering 200 X since Independence. A significant part of this capacity, around 167 GW was added in the current millennium.

While for us living in metropolitan cities with more than adequate power and back up facilities, these maybe be just figures. For the rural and BPL households these are facts which may change their lifestyle. In urban India, we fret over not having power for a few hours but too many of our fellow citizens live in circumstances where having a fan or a light bulb is a luxury. But there is hope for all and the light at the end of the tunnel seems near.