A small solar-powered LED lamp is the sole source of illumination at Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar’s ancestral home, a three-room thatched house in Nalanda district about 90km from Patna.
The house in Kalyanbigha village, where Kumar grew up as a child, is among the state’s 15 million households that do not have electricity. The village has electricity, though.
Sitaram, the sexagenarian caretaker of the house for the past three decades, hobbles around in the insufficient light of the solar lamp, a gift from a generous villager. Before that, he used to burn a dhibri or oil lamp for household chores after dusk.
“When I requested maalik (the CM) to get an electricity connection, so that I can at least sleep under a ceiling fan in this sweltering heat, he refused. Maalik said, 'I will not get electricity to my house till the last one in the state has it’,” the old man says.
Ironically, the same logic does not apply for the washroom at the small house. It has all modern sanitary fittings, including ceramic wall and floor tiles, a western commode, a shower and a basin.
The washroom looks out of place for rural Bihar where 70% of its population defecates in the open and the majority of households do not have access to toilets.
The same can be said about rural electrification, too, as an estimated 1.50 crore of the 2.10 crore households in the state have no power.
Watch: A tour of Nitish Kumar's ancestral house in Bihar
The JD(U)-led government had brought out newspaper advertisements about its achievements in the power sector, but officials admit a lot is needed to be done to improve the situation as electricity has yet to reach thousands of villages.
Power is a popular topic in this poll-bound state, where Union power minister Piyush Goyal recently announced a project to bring electricity to diara or sand island villages along the Ganga that have traditionally voted for Lalu Prasad’s RJD.