With the red brigade destroying transmission towers and lines in deep rural areas, the government is turning to solar power to light up Maoist-affected villages with the assistance of self-help groups (SHGs).
An empowered group of officers (EGO) under Planning Commission member-secretary Sudha Pillai has cleared a scheme to provide each of such villages with 50 solar lanterns with chargers at a subsidy of 90%.
The lanterns, chargers and solar panels will be assigned to an SHG. Villagers will take the lanterns in the evening and return them in the morning to the SHG, which can charge Rs 2-3 per day per lantern.
The project, to be taken up in 3,124 revenue villages of 60 districts, will be implemented under the Remote Village Electrification Plan of the ministry of new and renewable energy.
The proposal is supported by the governments of Bihar, Jharkhand and Orissa, where many of such villages supposed to be electrified under the Rajiv Gandhi Gram Vidhyutikaran Yojana – a Bharat Nirman project – still grope in darkness during night.
“As people of LWE (left-wing extremism) districts are extremely poor, we cannot expect them to afford the high costs. To accommodate the huge subsidy – providing the equipment costing R1.5 lakh at R15,000 – funds could be derived from the Clean Energy Fund of the ministry of finance,” said an official who is part of the EGO for measures for accelerated development in LWE areas.
In another proposal, the panel cleared setting up 1,934 mobile towers in nine LWE districts. To be implemented by state-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd, the project could utilise the Universal Service Obligation Fund, the official said.