Millions of people across the country might be waiting with bated breath for electricity to arrive in their homes but a Jharkhand village wants to be kept in the dark.
Around 150 residents of Jharkhand’s Mrigtar village, 55 kilometres from Jamshedpur, have told authorities they are used to darkness and don’t want electricity connections.
“We are happy with lanterns. Anyway, we go off to sleep by 7pm and wake up early morning for work,” said Somari Tudu, a farmer.
Electricity connections arrived in village — which is hit by Maoist violence — a month ago but no one has applied for connections or even attempted to steal power.
“Electricity is a luxury for us. It doesn’t fit into our daily lives,” said Tudu’s helper on the field.
But government officials say the reason behind the villagers’ apparent disdain for electricity is a fear of high associated costs.
“According to a circular, there would be no electricity connection without meter. Villagers have to pay Rs 550 connection charge and Rs 40 for meter verification. Thereafter the consumer has to pay their electricity bill each month as per their consumption,” said S Sarang, executive engineer of the Jharkhand state electricity board.
“Villagers of Mrigtar might be not so affluent to bear such charges.”
Jharkhand is home to major coal fields that help fire power plants across the country to produce thermal power.
But a combination of poverty and administrative corruption ensures that big chunks of the state still have no access to power, 67 years after independence.
This has fuelled many protests in the past decade amid dwindling public faith in the public machinery. HT reported on February 5 how 1,200 villagers in Dhanbad district’s Patiya village dug poles and erected street lights, laying wire for over 6 kilometres to bring power to their homes. They said the electricity improved safety for women, reduced crime and helped their economy.
But Mrigtar’s residents seem unmoved by the enthusiasm, though the village’s headman assured HT he was trying to change that.
“I would make people aware about the various benefits of having power connections and instruct them how to apply for it. I would help them in this matter as much as I can , ” Panchayat Mukhia Huding Soren said.