Bijli Sakhis collect power dues worth over 49 lakh from villagers in UP district

Bijli Sakhis have taken the road to empowerment in rural areas of Prayagraj district in Uttar Pradesh, taking up the job of reading electricity meters, generating bills and collecting the billed amount
Bijli Sakhis collect power dues worth over <span class='webrupee'>₹</span>49 lakh from villagers in UP district
Bijli Sakhis collect power dues worth over 49 lakh from villagers in UP district
Published on Jul 04, 2021 09:22 PM IST
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Bijli Sakhis have taken the road to empowerment in rural areas of Prayagraj district in Uttar Pradesh, taking up the job of reading electricity meters, generating bills and collecting the billed amount.

Ranjana, 30, a mother of two children aged 10 and seven years, is one such Bijli Sakhi. A resident of Dhokari village in Phulpur development block of the district, she goes off on government business every morning after quickly completing her household chores.

Every day, from 10 am, Ranjana visits home after home. She walks long stretches under the scorching sun, reading electricity meters and generating bills using a smart device hanging around her neck. She quickly collects the billed amount and then deposits it at the local power department office.

Having completed her BA from a local degree college, this is the first time Ranjana has ever stepped out of her home to work and support her household. Like her, dozens of other women too have been employed as Bijli Sakhis in Prayagraj. They too visit rural homes, take readings of electricity meters and collect the due amounts.

“The experience is new but empowering. Till now, the home was my world and looking after the needs of my two children and my husband Shauki Lal, a vegetable seller, was all I have done for the past 11 years now. In 2012, I completed my BA but never worked,” said Ranjana. After taking the job of a Bijli Sakhi, she underwent brief training on reading meters and generating power bills before she started working in August 2020.

This move to rely on women to realise power dues from villagers by the state electricity department seems to be paying off.

Engaging rural women of self-help groups (SHGs) as Bijli Sakhis as part of a state government initiative under the National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM) has resulted in power bills worth over 49 lakh being collected by them from the rural areas of Soraon, Koraon, Phulpur, Meja, Karchana, Mauaima and Pratappur development blocks in Prayagraj district of eastern Uttar Pradesh between February 1 and June 15, 2021, despite the pandemic—a fact testified by officials.

These 102 women working in 10 groups have managed to realise this amount from 5,274 consumers, surprising even senior power department officials and earning a total of 2.5 lakh as commission for themselves.

“Many a time, people distrust while other times they just do not want to pay the power dues. There are also cases where people have not paid up, owing to genuine issues like past payments not getting reflected in the bills. You have to sort out all these issues and only then people pay up. But the fact that we are women, remain calm and patient even under pressure and many a time move in groups, all seem to make even those people pay the power dues who had not done so earlier,” said Sanju Maurya, a housewife and a part-time Bijli Sakhi working in the Soraon area of the district.

“This work has also earned me a lot of respect among all villagers,” she added.

“These women have ensured that collection of electricity dues from rural areas, even during the peak of the pandemic’s second wave, remained healthy in Prayagraj. We are now planning to encourage more rural women to join this mission aimed at empowering them and also doing a noble national service,” said chief engineer of Prayagraj division, Vinod Kumar Gangwar.

NRLM’s district mission manager Amit Shukla, too, expressed happiness over the performance of the rural women, most working for the very first time.

“We had trained 115 women to work as Bijli Sakhis in Prayagraj and 102 of them have already started working by reading electricity meters, generating bills and collecting the due amounts. The fact that in less than five months they have earned a commission of 2.5 lakh for themselves despite the Covid-19 is pandemic is really worthy of applause,” he said.

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Monday, December 06, 2021