“From an energy shortage country, India is today a net exporter of electricity”: Shri Raj Kumar Singh
How would you define the last 48 Months of Transforming India under the leadership of PM Narendra Modi with regards to scale, speed, and innovation?
I would define the last 48 months as path breaking on several counts. We have added hereby 1 lakh MW to the generation capacity in 4 years at the rate of about 25000 MW per year whereas the rate of capacity addition in the previous years was only about 4500 MW per year. We added 1 lakh ckm to the transmission grid and doubled the renewable energy capacity to 69.7 GW besides achieving to the 100% village electrification ahead of schedule. We promised to light 18500 villages in 1000 days and redeemed our promise in 987 days. India has emerged as net exporter of electricity.
What are the most impactful initiatives and schemes of the Ministry/Ministries led by you?
The most impactful initiatives of this Ministry include electrification of all remaining villages under Deen Dayal Upadhaya Gram Jyoti Yojana (DDUGGY) and launch of Pradhan Mantri Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojana (Saubhagya) for providing last mile connectivity and service connections to all remaining un-electrified households in both rural and urban areas to achieve universal access in the country.
The DDUGJY scheme was launched for improvement in quality and reliability of power supply in rural areas through system strengthening and feeder separation to achieve the goal of 24×7 power supply for all. The Scheme provide for separate feeders for agriculture to ensure reliable supply for irrigation.
These schemes have had positive impact on quality of life of the rural populace and also on the various services like education, health, safety & security, communication etc. for overall development of rural areas. Access to quality and reliable electricity would also facilitate new opportunities of economic development, employment and poverty alleviation.
India’s rank improved to 29 in 2018 from 111 in 2014 on World Bank’s ease of getting electricity ranking.
More than 30 crore LED bulbs were distributed under UJALA resulting in saving of Rs.15500 crore per year. Energy efficiency measures through PAT in large industries saved energy worth Rs.9500 crore. Star labelling program saved energy worth Rs.22500 crore.
Provided multiple avenues for consumers to make e-payment through platforms such as BHIM, BBPS, Bharat QR, NPCI etc. More than 24 crore digital transactions in FY 2017-18 for electricity bill payment.
How would you measure the success and reach of these initiatives and schemes?
State governments have confirmed that all the inhabited census villages have been electrified in the country. The next target is to electrify all the households.
In order to assess the benefits of village electrification, once a village is declared electrified, the village is revisited after 2-3 months to record the changes in livelihood of the villagers. During such visits, data is collected on various parameters such as purchase of home appliances of daily use by villagers like mobile phones, Fans, TV, refrigerator, mixer/ grinder, cooler etc. and also opening of new shops, workshops for repair, flour mills, health centre etc. Feedback of villagers is also obtained on hours of supply, ease of life for women in doing daily chores, children getting more time to study, opening of any new economic opportunities etc.
Impact analysis has been carried out in 6751 villages in 15 States. It has been reported that 27771 new shops have been opened apart from 2777 flour mills in these villages. Villagers are using 2.2 lakh Television sets and 53197 refrigerators.
In a study carried out by Quality Council of India (QCI) in 972 sample villages of six States namely Assam, Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha and UP, people have reported greater ease in day to day work, increased educational opportunities, increased earnings and reduced reliance on alternative fuels for lighting.
When you assumed office, what were the key challenges faced in the sector relevant to the Ministry/Ministries led by you? How did you overcome those challenges and achieve the goal of last mile delivery of governance?
The major challenge was to ensure fulfilment of the commitment of Hon’ble Prime Minister, made before the nation on 15th August 2015, to complete electrification of all remaining villages within 1000 days. As we moved forward, the difficulty level was increasing. The challenges were enormous, especially in the remote and difficult terrains of NER states, J&K etc. and LWE affected areas of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Odisha. In difficult areas where grid extension was not feasible, Solar PV based standalone systems were installed for providing access to electricity. Special arrangements were made for transportation of material/equipment to all these difficult areas. Rigorous pursuance with all the stakeholder and monitoring at all levels right from field level to the Central Government level has resulted into completion of the works before the targeted timeline.
You must have met with many citizens across the country who have largely benefited from the initiatives taken up by Ministry/Ministries led by you…. Could you detail some of the memorable experiences and untold stories shared by citizens?
Bundi, Pithoragarh, Uttarakhand
Lots of Indian pilgrims visit Kailash Mansarovar every year, overcoming geographic and climatic barriers with their faith and determination. Those who haven’t taken this journey would have no idea what individual battle each pilgrim has to overcome to reach at 19500 feet on the mountains, crossing uneven terrain and adverse weather. Lipulekh Dwar is one such destination on the way to Kailash Mansarovar. For each pilgrim who has to cross Lipulekh must pass through Bundi village of Dharchula, Uttarkhand. Bundi village is situated some 68 kilometres in the interiors of Dharchula block. To reach this village with a habitation of approximately 100 houses, one has to travel by taxi for 50 kilometres and then walk for another 18 kilometres. During the course of the journey, the pilgrims spend the nights resting at the guest house of Kumaon Mandal Vikas Nigam (KMVN).
Earlier, in the absence of electricity, the pilgrims would have to grapple in the darkness all night. To avail sanitation facilities or to prepare again for a long journey ahead, they would get depressed due to the handicap of darkness.
Light doesn’t only service the eyes, making it easier to see. It also works on minds, creating a positive perception and uplifts the spirit.
Recently, electricity has reached Bundi village through solar energy, which ensures that the tired pilgrims are not left in the dark, when they check into the guest house. The travelers can charge their mobiles and cameras there, before they take to the difficult path once again in the morning. Hoshiyar Singh Rawat, manager at KMVN, “When the pilgrims get up at 4 or 5 am, they need water and food to start the day. Earlier our dependence on generators to pump water and kerosene oil in kitchens impaired the flow of work, because fuel itself had to be sourced from Dharchula. Solar electricity has made us far more self-sufficient.”
Today every house in the village avails the benefits of electricity. In this region all villages are spread wide apart as residents have to travel downhill during the chilly winters. People can stay here only for 6 months. Living life in such conditions has been much easier with solar electricity as they don’t have to depend on lamps lit by kerosene oil to prepare food, or earn their livelihood or to take care of their cattle. Villager Kapil Budiyal is excited with the developments. “Why don’t you train us, the villagers, on how to maintain the solar panels?” He asks. Instead of depending on technicians from Dharchula, we can then service them whenever required, and this will help us with employment opportunities.”
When the pilgrims reach the village these days, they find cheerful faces happy to help them beat the perils of a long journey. Their warm hospitality reenergizes them to restart afresh on the day next.
Kalimasta, Ramban, Jammu & Kashmir
A million stories keep taking rounds, trying to define the people of Kashmir. But it shatters many preconceived notions when a villager, Abdullah Mughal from the interiors of the same land says, “It has been 70 years to India’s independence. But for the first time in all these years we have felt that we too belong to the country! We thank Modi government for including us in the development plans. They are taking ahead the works of rural electrification as an ambitious and uncompromising drive.”
People of village Kalimasta, Ramban district of Jammu & Kashmir, reflect the spirit and energy of a new born, as they celebrate the recent electrification of their village.
“Day after day we have knocked every possible door. Our applications were kept in huge files and forgotten by the authorities. I have been a Sarpanch for the last six years; before I assumed position there had been others who had battled within their capacities to feature in the list of priorities of the existing government.” Says Imtiaz Ahmad Beg, sarpanch, Kalimasta village. “We battle very cold weather anyway. Post sunset the village seemed depressing and desolate. Pregnant women gave birth to babies in the dark. Especially when someone fell ill, we would have to wait till morning to take that person to the nearest hospital. There has been so many deaths because of this delay. We have even tried to simply lift the cot of the patient on our shoulders and proceed, but given the hilly terrain where we belong, walking in the dark is dangerous for everyone. Without electricity, most of the times we wouldn’t even know when an unwell person is asking for water, if he is too feeble to raise his voice in the middle of the night.”
Kalimasta has a total population of 1,789 people, living in about 348 houses. Six transformers have been installed here in a period of three months. In areas so remote and weather so extreme, this is a herculean job to achieve. Be it Tariq Ahmed of class VIII or college-going Shakti Singh, the student community is thrilled. They can now follow the path of their role models around the village and become doctors, engineers, collectors, etc. They are hopeful that soon there will be computer centers in the village, which will introduce them to the wonder-machine and connect them beautifully with the rest of the world. Their evenings will now be devoted to education instead of sitting idle, and eventually sleeping!
Shopkeeper Naz Ahmad Beg adds, “The area feels much safer now. We are happy. My shop remains open till late in the evening. Income has risen to more than double. Simply for charging our mobiles, we don’t have to travel to another location any more, wasting hours. These simple facilities make life far easier and simpler.”
The village head, Imtiaz Ahmad Beg believes that this is a new era which will lift many barriers, ushering the path of growth for the village. “We feel a black spell has lifted from us. Electricity hasn’t just given us visibility in the evenings; they have liberated us from years of hopelessness when we felt we don’t belong anywhere and no one cares about what we feel!”
Overall this Government has performed in all fronts – generation, transmission, distribution and energy efficiency through a number of innovative initiatives. From an energy shortage country, India is today a net exporter of electricity. For ensuring reliable and quality power, we have invested heavily in infrastructure upgradation. We have helped DISCOMs reduce AT&C losses. 1156 towns reported reduction in AT&C losses. States are ready to ensure 24X7 power for all from April 2019 through integrated planning of generation, transmission, distribution and energy efficiency. Overall we are moving rapidly towards the vision of the Hon’ble Prime Minister of Power for all 24X7.