1.Shedding light on Saubhagya (The Hindu)

 

Shedding light on Saubhagya (The Hindu)

Synoptic line- it throws light on the issue of assessment of Saubhagya scheme. GS 2

Overview

  • The government launched the Saubhagya scheme to provide last-mile connectivity to willing households to help achieve the goal of lighting every household. However, the targets are considered too ambitious for the project.

About Saubhagya

  • The Pradhan Mantri Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojana, or Saubhagya aims to provide electricity connections to over 40 million families in rural and urban areas by December 2018.
  • it makes grandiose promises to provide a free electricity connection to all willing Below Poverty Line households and to all others on a payment of ₹500 (which shall be recovered by the power distribution companies’/power departments in 10 instalments along with electricity bills), it expects the poor to pay the bills without providing any subsidy to ease their burden.
  • This new scheme is just a way of refurbishing the Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana (DDUGJY), the earlier scheme of rural electrification launched in July 2015, which aimed to electrify all un-electrified villages by May 2018.

Why was it launched?

  • Despite the government’s aggressive village electrification programme, the Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana launched in 2015, it was realized that the problem of electricity ‘access’ wasn’t resolved.
  • Under DDUGJY, the government managed to electrify 14,701 villages while 2,760 villages remain un-electrified; out of these, work is still in progress in a total of 2,611 villages. However, out of the 14,701 villages, only in 8%, i.e. 1,198 villages, do all households have connectivity.
  • 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 centers, dispensaries and community centers.
  • 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.

Assessment of the objectives

  • The question comes while 90% of households may not have power supply and of those 10% with electricity not having a regular supply, can we still consider such a village to be electrified in a meaningful way?
  • The objective of the Saubhagya scheme is to “provide energy access to all by last mile connectivity and electricity connections to all remaining un-electrified households in rural as well as urban areas to achieve universal household electrification in the country.”
  • On the face of it, the scheme may only be able to plug the gaps and address the issues of entry barrier, last mile connectivity and release of connections, but it can guarantee neither regular electricity supply nor continuation of those connections in case of non-payment.
  • The free electricity connection may provide some relief as far as the financial burden is concerned. However, expecting poor households to bear the recurring burden of bills as per the prevailing tariff of DISCOMs is unimaginable.
  • The another question is even if the programme is successful and all households are provided a connection, there would still be the problem of regular supply. Industry estimates suggest that this scheme would potentially require an additional 28,000 MW and additional energy of about 80,000 million units per annum, which is roughly 7% of India’s current installed power capacity.
  • There is a power shortage even at this moment leading to scheduled and unscheduled load shedding, often up to 10 hours or more. The problem is graver still in interior rural India, managing this additional demand would prove to be challenging.

Way ahead

  • Though in opposition there has been a lot of debate over many of the government’s policies which it claims to be based on the primary goal of “ushering in development”. Nevertheless, it considered as a cause of worry that the government has embraced the slogans of welfare politics without being able to deliver substantial and meaningful results.
  • Saubhagya has some positives such as provision for households outside the reach of grid lines. However, in contention the policy has set a standard for itself without enough focus on its capacity to deliver results.

Question: Critically analyze the government’s new launch Saubhagya scheme.