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How every village got electricity and why that is still not enough (Relevant for GS Prelims, GS Mains Paper III; Economics)

Trend of electrification
A mere 3,000 of more than 500,000 Indian villages had an electric pole in 1950. The coverage of India’s power network would remain poor for the next two decades. The real leap forward (See Chart 1), in terms of geographic coverage, happened in the early to mid-1970s when Indira Gandhi rode to power with her “garibi hatao” slogan. Only 18% of India’s villages were electrified in 1970. By the mid-1980s, there was an electric pole in two-thirds of the villages.

Consistent increase in villages covered
Under Indira Gandhi’s various tenures, the rural electrification drive consistently reached nearly 20,000 villages every year. Thus, the pace of electrification achieved by the Narendra Modi-led government is fairly modest when viewed historically, although many of the villages that got connected to the grid after 2014 were particularly hard to reach.

Why then does access to electricity still remain beyond the reach of so many Indians?
The government is not considering modifying the current much-criticised definition of an electrified village, which counts a village as electrified if at least 10% of its households have an electricity connection, according to a senior official in the Ministry of Power.

According to the definition, in place since October 1997, a village is deemed to be electrified if basic infrastructure such as a distribution transformer and distribution lines are in place in the inhabited locality, electricity is provided to public places like schools, panchayat office, health centres, dispensaries, community centres, and at least 10% of the households in the village are electrified.

Present status of electrification in households
“As of today, in India, the rural household electrification is about 83%. From State to State, it ranges from 47% to 100%, but on average about 83% of households are electrified.

Saubhagya scheme
The government had in September 2017 launched the Pradhan Mantri Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojana (Saubhagya), aimed at covering the last-mile connectivity of taking electricity to the household level. The target for the scheme is March 31, 2019.

According to data from the Ministry of Power and the Central Electricity Authority, so far 84.3% of households have been electrified. The Saubhagya scheme defines the electrification of a household as including a service line cable, energy meter, and single point wiring.

For unelectrified households in remote areas, electrification will involve the provision of power packs of 200 to 300 W (with battery bank) with a maximum of 5 LED lights, 1 DC Fan, and 1 DC power plug.

(Adapted from The Hindu and Livemint)

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