According to reports, the government is likely to miserably fall short of its rural electrification target for the current fiscal as most villages that were to be covered under the scheme are located in difficult terrains, making it difficult for the Rural Electrification Corporation (REC) to lay power lines there.
Officials from Rural Electrification Corporation, the nodal agency for implementing the scheme, say many of the villages that were to be supplied with power are either on forest land, which is inaccessible, or they do not have proper roads. They say some of these villages have also moved because of floods and other natural calamities, while some do not exist any more.
“Delay in forest clearances or no clearances at all, remote and treacherous areas and inhabitations in wildlife sanctuaries are the major impediments to providing electricity to a large number of villages this year,” a senior REC official said on condition of anonymity. “The easily accessible areas have already been provided power lines. The ones left are the difficult ones.”
The official said some villages do not exist any more but they have not been removed from the electrification list.
“Flood washes out entire villages and the population there moves to some other place. These villages are to be freshly accounted for while the ones that do not exist are to be stricken off the list,” the official said. According to the target set by the Planning Commission, states were to electrify 6,000 villages during the year under the Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojana. However, only about 2,000 of these villages have been covered under the scheme in the first eight months of the year.
The Planning Commission had sought electrification of 1,160 villages in the three months to June, another 920 during the second quarter, 2,080 villages in the following three months, and 1,840 until the close of the fiscal in March.
But data provided by Central Electricity Authority shows that only 2,000 villages were electrified until November. Nearly 35,000 are still without electricity, according to the data.
“Orissa, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam and some northeastern states like Meghalaya are the ones where the electrification drive has been most affected,” the REC official quoted earlier said.
He, however, said the pace of work might pick up January onwards.
“During the summers, workers find it difficult to provide connection in new areas, some of which have no roads and the equipment needs to be carried manually,” he said. “The monsoon rains also make many of these villages inaccessible. Work picks up pace only during winters.”
The official also said electrification in forest areas requires the environment ministry’s clearance. “There are some areas where the ministry will not give us permission. However, states need to wait till they officially receive the objection as villages are stricken off the electrification list only after that.”