Year 2017 was an important year, when government unveiled Rs 16,320 crore Pradhan Mantri Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojana (SAUBHAGYA) in September to provide electricity connection to around 4 crore families in rural and urban areas by March 2019. However, the Power Ministry's internal target to achieve universal electrification under the Saubhagya scheme is December, 2018.
The objective of Saubhagya scheme is to provide last mile connectivity and electricity connections to all households in rural and urban areas. Under the scheme free of cost electricity connections to all remaining un-electrified households with at least one deprivation on the basis of SECC (Socio Economic Caste Economic) data in rural areas and economically poor households in urban areas would be given.
As many as 18,452 census villages in the country out of total inhabited villages of 5,97,644 as per census 2011 were reported un-electrified by the states on April 1, 2015. As on November 30, 2017, electrification in 15,183 villages has been completed and 1,052 villages have been reported un-inhabited. The remaining 2,217 villages are expected to be electrified by May 1, 2018.
Despite the government’s aggressive village electrification programme, the Deen Dayal Upadhyay Gram Jyoti Yojana launched in July 2015, under which 78% of 18,000 villages have been electrified, it was realised that the problem of electricity ‘access’ wasn’t resolved. A village is 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.
With a large number of household still remaining without access to electricity, the scheme aims at ensuring the coverage of households as opposed to only villages. It was seen that the electricity distribution companies (discoms) 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 will be created which in turn will force the discoms to supply to these villages, according to Livemint.