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PM Switches on Rs 16kcr Scheme to Light Up Bharat

PM Switches on Rs 16kcr Scheme to Light Up Bharat
Aim is to offer power to all households by Dec 2018, and free connections to poor

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has launched a Rs 16,320-crore scheme to supply ` electricity to all households by December 2018, providing free connections to the poor and at very low cost to others.

The Pradhan Mantri Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojna, named `Saubhagya', which will be executed just before the next general elections, aims to improve the environment, public health, education and connectivity with the help of last-mile power connections across India. It will help reduce the use of kerosene lamps in non-electrified households.

Modi said the scheme would bring “monumental change“ in the life of the poor, and this was possible after three years of reforms in the power sector.“In the working of this government, all you can see is Garib Kalyan (welfare of the poor). The aspirations of the poor determine the working of our government,“ the PM said.

After connecting each house with electricity, the government's next target would be to end load shedding and provide 24x7 power, said RK Singh, minister for power and renewable energy. Officials said the sche Rs 16,000 crore inme would inject ` to the economy, create assets and generate employment. Importantly, electricity would be billed without any subsidy.

Singh said states that complete the scheme by December next year would be given an additional 15% grant by the Centre as incentive. The scheme is being funded to the extent of 60% by central grants, 30% by bank loans and 10% by states. The scheme will boost growth, said Kameswara Rao, PwC's specialist for energy , utilities and mining. “This is a natural transition of government policy from electrification of villages to connecting households. Access to energy is central to development and this initiative to expedite that access is strongly positive for growth.“ He said last-mile connectivity has always been a huge challenge due high cost of connections for households and higher supply costs for states. “So this attempt to address both, by funding energy efficient equipment, is a positive step.“

Remote hamlets will be powered with solar panels along with five LED lamps, a DC fan, and a plug point along with repair and maintenance for five years, the government said. Under the Saubhagya scheme, electricity connections will be given free to people identified by the Socio Economic and Caste Census of 2011 while others will get it for Rs 500, payable in 10 instalments in the bill, a government statement said. The scheme promises on-the-spot registration of applications, which should include an identity proof.

The scheme primarily benefits rural areas, which have the vast majority of households without power connections. Of the total outlay of Rs16,320 crore, rural areas will get  Rs 14,025 crore. The government said Rural Electrification Corp will be the nodal agency for the scheme throughout the co untry while public institutions and panchayats will be authorised to collect applications forms, distribute bills and collect payments in consultation with panchayati raj institutions and urban local bodies.

The scheme follows the government's mission to take electricity lines to each and every village in the country , including solar power stations in remote hamlets, which was rigorously implemented by coal and railways minister Piyush Goyal, who was earlier the minister for power, renewable energy , coal and mines.

About 90% of the non-electrified households are in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Jharkhand, Rajasthan, Karnataka, J&K and North-Eastern States.

The Economic Times, New Delhi, 26th September 2017

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