Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Modi's Saubhagya is old wine in new bottle, "copies" 2005 UPA rural electrification scheme for "willing" households

By Our Representative
Old wine in new bottle -- this is what Prime Minister Narendra Modi's new scheme, Saubhagya, is being described by knowledgeable circles. The "new scheme", seeking to provide free power connection to what are called "willing households", is called Pradhan Mantri Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojana or Saubhagya, and is nothing but just a copy of a scheme launched by the then UPA government in April 2005.
Called RGGVY (Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojana), the 2005 scheme had sought to provide benefits to households below the poverty line (BPL) through a free connection but chargeable consumption of power. In a span of eight years, till January 2013, RGGVY provided free power connection to more than two crore people.
The principal aims of RGGVY were implemented since 2005 were (1) Electrifying all villages and habitations as per new definition. (2) Providing access to electricity to all rural households. (3)Providing electricity connection to Below Poverty Line (BPL) families free of charge.
The view is strong: Compared with RGGVY there is nothing new in Saughagya, except what are described as “willing households”. RGGVY was "subsumed" by Modi in another scheme he launched three years ago, soon after he became to power, the Deen Dayal Upadhyay Grameen Jyoti Yojana (DDUGJY) in July 2015.
"The DDUGJY is one of the flagship programmes of the Ministry of Power and will facilitate 24x7 supply of power", a 2015 Government of India note explains, pointing out, "DDUGJY Scheme approved by the Union Government draws its inspiration from the similar pioneering scheme implemented by the Government of Gujarat."
DDUGJY, the note said, "Focuses on feeder separation (rural households and agricultural) and strengthening of sub-transmission & distribution infrastructure including metering at all levels in rural areas. This will help in providing round the clock power to rural households and adequate power to agricultural consumers."
"The earlier scheme for rural electrification viz RGGVY, has been subsumed in the new scheme as its rural electrification component", the note underlined.
Modi's "new" scheme, Saubhagya, launched with an allocation of Rs 16,320-crore to supply electricity to all households by December 2018, i.e. ahead of the scheduled Lok Sabha pols in April-May 2019, like RGGVY, provided free connections to the poor and at very low cost to others.
It has been launched because DDUGJY provided power to 78% of the 18,000 villages, which were without any electricity connection, but it was realised that the problem of electricity ‘access’ wasn’t resolved. Under DDUGJY, a village would be declared to be electrified if 10% of the households are given electricity along with public places such as schools, panchayat office, health centres, dispensaries and community centres.
Between 2005-2012, during the tenure of the UPA government, 104,496 villages were electrified and connections were provided to 21.5 million households. Of these, 19 million households were provided free connections. When the Modi government announced the new avatar of the rural electrification scheme, only 18,452 villages remained without power. 
The Saughagya scheme has been launched because as of today, according to government data, there are 40.53 million households without electricity connections. Of India’s 606,172 villages, there are fewer than 200,000 villages in which all houses have electricity connections.
The has been also launched as it was found that the electricity distribution companies don’t want to supply to the villages even if the electrification has taken place. By providing electricity access to all households with prepaid and smart meters, demand would be created which in turn would force distribution companies to supply power to these villages.
Interestingly, there is no subsidy component in Saubhagya, with the Gram Panchayat and public institutions in the rural areas authorised to carry out billing and collection tasks.
Under Saubhagya, while free connections are to be provided to below poverty line (BPL) households, like RGGVY, those not covered under this category can avail it by paying Rs 500 in 10 instalments of Rs 50 each along with their monthly bill.

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