PM launches scheme for free power connection to 4 cr families

After free LPG connection to poor, Prime Minister Narendra Modi today announced giving free electricity connection to over 4 crore households by December 2018.

Using the occasion of birth centenary of Hindutva ideologue Deendayal Upadhaya to launch the Pradhan Mantri Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojana or Saubhagya (meaning good luck), Modi said free electricity connections will be provided to the the 4 crore out of 25 crore hosueholds which are still without electricity.

 The government, he said, will electrify 2,986 remaining villages by December 2017 to help take power to all households by December 2018.

Modi had in 2015 set a target of 1,000 days for electrifying the 18,452 villages that did not have electricity connection.

Talking of the government’s pro-poor initiatives, he said the government has opened 30 crore zero-balance bank accounts for unbanked, provided 15 crore with insurance cover at the cost of Re 1 per month and Rs 0.90 a day and given Rs 3.5 lakh crore loan to 9 crore account holders without any guarantee.

He said Thomas Edison, the inventor of electricity, had once said, “We will make electricity so cheap that only the rich will burn candles.”

But in India, poor still have to burn candles, he said, adding the new scheme is to help eliminate darkness in the lives of 4 crore households without electricity.

The prime minister said since his government took office, electricity blackouts and coal shortages at power plants are a thing of past and the country is moving towards being energy surplus.

To improve the situation, he said his government has worked on production, transmission, distribution and connection – coal production has risen from 566 million tonnes in 2013-14 to 659 million tonnes in 2016-17, installed capacity has risen 60,751 MW instead of target of 54,521 MW, renewable energy generation has increased to 58,899 MW in 2017 from 34,988 MW in 2014 and solar power tariff has dropped to Rs 2.44 a unit.

Similar work has been done on distribution of electricity, helping India climb on the ease of doing business ranking to 26th position in 2017 from 99th rank in 2015, he said.

Modi said the government has given 3 crore free LPG connections to help end miseries of women who had to use polluting fuels to cook.

On the occasion, Power Minister R K Singh said that a proposal which would seek to take discoms to task for load shedding in cases other than technical faults, natural calamities or accidents, would soon be placed before the prime minister for approval.

Singh said that all those electricity board and discoms which would do load shedding without genuine reasons would be fined.

The minister also talked about shifting to prepaid electricity connections where people are able to rechrage at Rs 50 or 100 denomination just like in case of mobile phones.

The prime minister also called upon ONGC to use its Rs 100 crore start up funds to develop user friendly electric cooking appliances saying it would help in reducing the fuel consumption.

According to an official statement, the total outlay of the ‘Saubhagya’ project is Rs 16,320 crore while the Gross Budgetary Support (GBS) is Rs 12,320 crore.

The outlay for the rural households is Rs 14,025 crore while the GBS is Rs 10,587.50 crore. For the urban households the outlay is Rs 2,295 crore while GBS is Rs 1,732.50 crore. The Centre will provide largely funds for the scheme to all States/UTs.

The beneficiaries for free electricity connections would be identified using Socio Economic and Caste Census (SECC) 2011 data.

However, it said that un-electrified households not covered under the SECC data would also be provided electricity connections under the scheme for Rs 500 which shall be recovered by DISCOMs in 10 instalments through electricity bill.

The Gram Panchayat/public institutions in the rural areas may be authorised to collect application forms along with complete documentation, distribute bills and collect revenue in consultation with the Panchayat Raj Institutions and Urban Local Bodies.

The Rural Electrification Corporation Limited (REC) will remain the nodal agency for the operationalisation of the scheme throughout the country.

The government has been working hard to electrify all villages in the country and also want to achieve 24X7 Power for All by March, 2019, the statement said.

In 2015, the prime minister had announced to electrify the remaining 18,452 unelectrified villages in 1,000 days in his Independence Day speech. However, the Power Ministry is expected to electrify all habited villages by December this year.

Source: Business Standard
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