Almost 18,500 villages in 1,000 days! Ever since Narendra Modi announced in his Independence Day speech that 18,452 villages will be electrified and mentioned Nagla Fatela village as an example, reports have emerged about discrepancies between government’s claims and the ground reality.
“But the data about villages being electrified is given to us by states. And in a federal structure we have to trust states,” power minister Piyush Goyal told HT.
To avoid any such controversy, the Centre is conducting surveys to see if there are any discrepancies between claims made by states and the actual condition of rural household electrification. In fact 395 people have been contracted to travel to electrified villages to verify data from states. They are called gramin vidyut abhyantas (GVA) — village electricity engineers.
According to data available with the central government there are 600,000 villages in India as per the 2011 census. The target was to energise 18,452 villages, which were not electrified, by May 2018. So far 10,111 villages have been provided electricity, data from the state governments claim.
But what is the definition of rural electrification? The central government says it is building transmission towers, laying cables for channelling power and ensuring at least 10% households in a village have access to electricity.
Rural Electrification Corporation (REC), the central agency responsible for disbursing funds for electrifying villages in India, has written to principal secretaries and distribution companies in all states seeking audit reports of utilisation of central funds towards electrification.
“The GVAs are also verifying if these 10,111 villages actually have electricity, as claimed by the states,” said Dinesh Arora, executive director at REC. He adds that
Sources in the government say that so far Uttar Pradesh, Assam, Jharkhand and Arunachal Pradesh have been identified as states that have received funds yet have been reluctant in their rural electrification drives.
“In some these states infrastructure for providing power has been created but electricity is not provided through them,” Arora added.
“We have given states time till September 30 to respond to our letters confirming information provided by them is authentic,” says a source in the power ministry.
If caught falsifying data, states will be showcaused by the central government and further funds disbursement for the power sector.