Delay in access
Eighty-five-year-old Janaki Devi of Dara Nagar village in Badaun district stands below the CFL bulb in her house, quite indifferent on the subject of electricity. Electric poles were raised near her house on the edge of the village 25 years ago. A Dalit by caste, Janaki Devi had thought that as soon as the wiring would be done, her house would be among the first in the village to get power. But the poles were not connected for several years and Janaki Devi lost her vision to cataract before her wish could be fulfilled.
“It was my desire to see a lit bulb in my house. I had seen electricity-powered lights only twice during my life—at a railway station and in Badaun town,” she says.
Tired of waiting for the government to do its job, the village began arranging diesel generators. The generators provide three hours of guaranteed electric supply every evening for Rs 100 a month. A few months ago, Dara Nagar was officially electrified with 35 of 350 households getting electricity from the government. According to a revision in the definition given in the Electricity Act, 2003, an electrified village is one where all public places, such as schools, health centres and panchayat offices, and 10 per cent of all households are connected to the grid. This means only one in 10 households needs to have electricity supply for the village to be considered officially “electrified”.
But residents prefer their private arrangements. “When we require electricity, it doesn’t come. The private generator is reliable. It comes on time and goes on time,” says Swaraj Mal Arya of the village.
Getting a government connection and electricity supply is a costly affair in villages. The official charge for an unmetered connection is Rs 1,400, but corrupt middlemen charge villagers up to Rs 3,500. “Even monthly charges vary from Rs 225 to Rs 250. They deduct more citing, other charges like service tax. We don’t argue as there is a threat of getting less power supply or services if we create a scene. They may even refuse to send mechanics in case of repairs,” says Kumar Ranjit Singh, village head of Karnpur.
Karnpur faces frequent faults in power supply. They don’t rely on the government for repairs, but instead collect funds to carry out their own repairs. “Last month, the transformer got damaged. I contributed Rs 1,500 and the rest was collected from others. Government mechanics come only after they are paid bribes,” says Singh. On paper, Karnpur is electrified, but a lot of work remains to be done.
The Narendra Modi-led government has set the target of 24x7 electricity for all rural households by 2019. On paper, Karnpur is electrified, but a lot of work remains to be done if all households are to get electricity. A few poles were constructed here last in 1995. This year in May, another 42 poles were proposed, of which only a few have been erected.