BHUBANESWAR: The rural electrification drive of the Centre has not been helpful in improving the situation in Odisha. Ironically, over 36.78 lakh households in the electrified villages are living without power.The number of unelectrified villages has, however, come down from 3,474 to 404. Of these, 275 villages will be provided electricity through off-grid measures but the lack of access to a large number of households to electricity is a worrisome factor.
As per the status report of the Ministry of Power, 2,555 villages have been electrified in the last three years and work is in progress in 400 others. Intensive electrification works are underway in 75 villages of Rayagada district, 73 in Kalahandi and 53 in Mayurbhanj.
Even as the State Government claims to have provided electricity to more than 64 lakh households so far, the status report of the Ministry of Power said 46,83,838 out of 83,62,199 households of the State have electricity connections.
The much-touted free electricity connection plan to BPL families under this flagship programme has tuned out to be a damp squib with only one per cent of the intended BPL families getting the benefit.
The NITI Aayog in its draft National Energy Policy (NEP) report to the Centre has expressed concern over the inaccessibility of a large number of households to electricity.
“Studies have revealed that in spite of major strides made by the earlier schemes in providing connections and introduction of Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana (DDUGJY), the problem of electricity ‘access’ did not improve appreciably,” the NITI Aayog report said. A village is declared electrified if at least 10 per cent households of the habitation are using electricity.
Reaffirming his commitment to supply 24×7 power to all households in the State by March 2019, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik had set May 2017 as the deadline for electrification of all the villages. Though the target is partially met, it is a challenge for the State Government and the Centre to ensure that the coverage of households is maximised as opposed to only villages, official sources said.
The rural electrification programme was launched in 2005 to provide electricity to villages having a population of 100 or more.
On the delay in completion of rural infrastructure programme, sources in Energy department said the remaining unelectrified villages are located in highly inaccessible areas or areas plagued by Left Wing Extremism. Besides, in some of these areas, the executing agencies are facing right of way (ROW) issues.