According to reports, a delegation from Azamgarh in Uttar Pradesh and Madhubani and Saran in Bihar, led by volunteers of environmental organization Greenpeace, held a meeting with the members of the Planning Commission in Delhi on Friday.
The delegation urged the authorities to increase the scope of decentralised renewable energy (DRE) in the Central Government’s Rajiv Gandhi Rural Electrification Scheme.
The delegation handed over its recommendations which emerged after a social audit of the scheme was conducted in the two states.
The Greenpeace, along with its partner organisations, had conducted social audits and public hearings on the Rajiv Gandhi Rural Electrification Scheme in 31 villages across Azamgarh district in Uttar Pradesh, Madhubani and Saran districts in Bihar, and Srikakulam district in Andhra Pradesh.
The social audits underlined the inconsistencies between the claims made by the Central government and the reality at the ground level. The result of the social audit was also shared with the Planning Commission authorities.
After listening to the delegation and Commission officials agreed to consider the recommendations of the group. They also agreed to include the component of social audits for the village electrification scheme in the next Five Year Plan.
“The scheme promised us power and electricity for 6-8 hours in a day but we are yet to see even a connection. A lot of people in my village are not aware about their entitlements under the scheme and thee situation leads to rampant corruption,” said Ramsurat Chauhan, a resident of Mauliya Gram Panchayat in Mehnagar Block of Azamgarh District of Uttar Pradesh.
“We hope that the Planning Commission will pay heed to our problems and make the required changes in the scheme,” he said.
The website of the scheme claims that the Saran and Madhubani districts of Bihar have 100 per cent and 97 per cent electrification, respectively.
In reality, almost 78 per cent of the population at Saran and almost all villages in Madhubani have no access to electricity.
Similarly, the website claims 93 per cent electrification in Azamgarh district of Uttar Pradesh but in reality a large number of people have been denied electric connections.
In Andhra Pradesh, where villages already had some access to electricity, the scheme has failed to upgrade the system further. Improvement in electricity infrastructure has not translated to improved supply and has failed to meet the demands of the people who want electricity for more than just lighting their houses.
During the public hearing it was found that there are areas in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh where decentralised renewable energy (DRE) systems has provided hope and electricity to people. If the same systems are included in the Rural Electrification, it can truly energise rural India.
“Decentralised Renewable Energy (DRE) has the potential to provide electricity to rural areas that are not connected to the grid and to augment electricity supply where the grid has reached the villages. The Rajiv Gandhi Rural Electrification Scheme has the provision for DRE but it has not been adequately utilised so far,” said Arpana Udupa, campaigner, Greenpeace India.
“The scheme needs to be revamped to suit local requirements and provide regular and reliable power to people and DRE can bridge this gap. Planning Commission should include DRE in RGGVY in the next Five Year Plan,” said Udupa.
The delegation also plans to meet the Ministry of Power and National Advisory Council to take their demands forward.
Greenpeace is calling on the Planning Commission to mainstream DRE in the Rajiv Gandhi Rural Electrification Scheme.
A few suggestions of Greenpeace India included:
Rapid uptake of DRE generation (off-grid and on grid) units in the areas under the scheme with target of 25% of resources.
Electrification of 100 per cent households in targeted villages.
Include social audit component in the scheme to enhance accountability.
Include guidelines for energy infrastructure for irrigation and medium and small scale industries as part of rural energy programme.
Inclusion of Panchayati Raj Institutions to enable better implementation and monitoring of the scheme.