Prime Minister Narendra Modi has launched the ambitious Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojana or ‘Saubhagya’ scheme, which aims to provide free electricity to all households in the country by December 2018.
Speaking at the launch event in the capital according to report by PTI , Modi said that under the scheme, free electricity connections would be provided to the poor. The total cost of the project is Rs 16,230 crore, but he said that the burden of this would not be passed on to the poor.
Regretting that 4 crore out of 25 crore households still do not have an electricity connection, Modi said the Rs 16,000 crore outlay would bring a monumental change in the lives of the people. He said that the poor would not have to run after government officials for a connection, as this time the government would come to their doorstep.
“It is important for us to understand what life is like without electricity. When the electricity will reach these households, only then their fortunes will shine,” the PM said.
The announcement came on the same day that BJP started its national executive meet in Delhi. The two events were held to coincide with the conclusion of the month-long birth centenary celebration of RSS ideologue Deen Dayal Upadhyaya.
Modi also launched the Deendayal Urja Bhawan, which will be the new ONGC corporate office. Petroleum minister Dharmendra Pradhan and minister of state (power) RK Singh were also present at the launch.
Exalting the work of the current government, the PM said that the Saubhagya scheme is the result of three years of reforms in the power sector. He said that as a result of improving the generating capacity and distribution network, the government has advanced the target of providing electricity to all homes from March 2019.
Modi had in 2015 set a target of 1,000 days for electrifying the 18,452 villages that did not have electricity connection. The government, he said, has electrified 14,483 villages and will electrify 2,986 remaining villages by December 2017 to help take power to all households by December 2018.
“This is a reflection of our working style and will power,” he said.
In a jibe at the Opposition, Modi said that earlier there used to be constant breaking news regarding power outages and shortage of coal to power plants, but now the situation has changed and the nation is moving from a scenario of power shortage to power surplus.
“Earlier, there would be crores of scams on coal mining. We have not only improved niti (policy) but also niyat (intention),” Modi said, referring to the UPA regime.
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 PM for approval. He said that all those electricity boards and discoms that do load shedding without genuine reasons would be fined.
The minister also talked about shifting to prepaid electricity connections where people are able to recharge at Rs 50 or 100 denomination just like in case of mobile phones.
According to an official statement, the total outlay of the ‘Saubhagya’ project will be Rs 16,320 crore, while the Gross Budgetary Support (GBS) is Rs 12,320 crore. The Centre will largely provide the funds for the scheme to all states and UTs.
The beneficiaries for free electricity connections would be identified using Socio Economic and Caste Census (SECC) 2011 data.
The government said that even those un-electrified households that are not covered under SECC data would be provided electricity connections under the scheme on payment of Rs 500. The amount will be recovered by discoms in 10 instalments through the electricity bill.
They would be given solar power packs of 200 to 300 Wp, with a battery bank for un-electrified households located in remote and inaccessible areas. It would comprise five LED lights, one DC fan and one DC power plug.
Gram panchayats and public institutions in rural areas will 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 wants to achieve 24X7 power for all by March, 2019, the statement said.