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The “Saubhagya” scheme 

By Ibu Sanjeeb Garg

Beating the Rhetoric 

The central government has recently launched the Pradhan Mantri Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojana or Saubhagya Scheme. The scheme seeks to ensure universal household electrification (in both rural and urban areas) by providing last mile connectivity.  The scheme is expected to cover three crore households.  As per reports currently about four crore households are un-electrified.  Various rural electrification schemes have also been under implementation since 2005 and the recently announced scheme only seeks to augment the existing schemes and give a further impetus to the rural electrification scenario in the country.

The first rural electrification scheme was launched as the Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojana (RGGVY), in 2005 and is the first scheme on rural electrification.  Subsequently with the coming of the new government in power rural electrification received a renewed focus.

With this in mind the Ministry of Power launched the Deendayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana (DDUGJY) in 2014. Once it was launched it subsumed the RGGVY. The major components of DDUGJY included separation of agricultural and non-agricultural electricity feeders to improve supply for consumers in rural areas, improving sub-transmission and distribution infrastructure in rural areas, and thirdly rural electrification by carrying forward targets specified under the RGGVY.

The total financial outlay for DDUGJY over the implementation period is Rs 82,300 crore which includes budgetary support of Rs 68,900 crore.  In it the central government provides 60% of the project cost as grant, the state power distribution companies raise 10% of the funds, and 30% is borrowed from financial institutions and banks. The Saubhagya scheme seeks to further these goals.

An electrified village is defined as one that has the following: provision of basic infrastructure such as distribution transformers and lines in the inhabited locality, provision of electricity in public places like schools, panchayat office, health centers, dispensaries, and community centers, and at least 10% of the total number of households in the village are electrified. Therefore, a village is considered to be electrified if 10% of the total number of households in the village have been electrified.  This is apart from the basic infrastructure and electrification of certain public centers in the village.

The newly announced scheme, Saubhagya, seeks to ensure universal household electrification, that is, in both rural and urban areas.  Under this scheme, beneficiaries will be identified using the Socio Economic and Caste Census (SECC) 2011 data.  The identified poor households will get free electricity connections.  Other households not covered under the SECC, will be provided electricity connections at a cost of Rs 500.  This amount will be collected by the electricity distribution companies in 10 instalments.

The total outlay of the scheme will be Rs 16,320 crore, of which the central government will provide Rs 12,320 crore.  The outlay for the rural households will be Rs 14,025 crore, of which the centre will provide Rs 10,588 crore.  For urban households the outlay will be Rs 2,295 crore of which the centre will provide Rs. 1,733 crore.

The state discoms will execute the electrification works through contractors or other suitable agencies.  Information technology (mobile apps, web portals) will be used to organise camps in villages to identify beneficiaries.  In order to accelerate the process, applications for electricity connections will be completed on the spot.

So far the focus of electrification schemes has been on rural areas, where typically last mile connectivity has been difficult to provide.  Saubhagya extends the ambit of electrification projects to urban areas as well.  While DDUGJY has focused on the village as the principal unit to measure electrification, the new scheme shifts the targets to household electrification.  While the target for ensuring electricity connection in each household will be a significant step towards ensuring 24×7 power, the question of continuous and quality supply to these households will still rest on the ability of the discoms to provide electricity.  Further, while the scheme provides for free connections, the ability of these households to pay for the electricity they consume may be a concern.

The States and Union Territories are required to complete the works of household electrification by the 31st of December 2018. The solar power packs which will be used for this programme where 200 to 300 Wp with battery bank for un-electrified households located in remote and inaccessible areas, comprises of Five LED lights, One DC fan, One DC power plug. It also includes the Repair and Maintenance (R&M) for 5 years.

The expected outcome of the Scheme is as follows in the scheme are as follows :environmental upgradation by substitution of Kerosene for lighting purposes, improvement education services, better health services, enhanced connectivity through radio, television, mobiles, increased economic activities and jobs and improved quality of life especially for women

For easy & accelerated implementation of the Scheme , modern technology shall be used for household survey by using Mobile App. Beneficiaries shall be identified and their application for electricity connection along with applicant photograph and identity proof shall be registered on spot. The Gram Panchayat/Public institutions in the rural areas may 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. This scheme will undoubtedly give a new impetus to rural electrification of the region.

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