Census 2011 throws light on the darkness across India. Of the 246 million households, 67 per cent get electricity from the grid, while 31 per cent have no option but to use kerosene lamps. In 2001, government initiated a nationwide programme to provide off-grid, clean alternatives, mostly solar, in remote areas. Solar has now lit up more than a million homes —a 100 per cent increase since 2001—though the programme has its share of loopholes. This situation presents both challenges and opportunities. The answer to the country’s energy poverty could lie in decentralised solar.
Joel Kumar, who assessed the programme’s performance, says the case for off-grid solar is clear and urgent. Ankur Paliwal carries out a reality check in Uttarakhand, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, and Sayantan Bera in Assam