- PM Modi had promised 18,452 villages would get electricity in 1,000 days
- Since scheme was launched last year, over 7,700 villages have electricity
- UP's Anandpur village is the latest beneficiary of the scheme
Anandpur, Uttar Pradesh: Ram Kishore searched long and hard to find a suitable wife for his son, but his efforts only paid off when electricity finally came to his village this year.
Now he is all smiles as he sits under a glowing light bulb in his single-room home in Anandpur village. Just 145 miles from the capital New Delhi, it has never had electricity – until now.
“I will personally invite my daughter-in-law’s family to visit us and look at the electricity meter,” the 60-year-old former labourer said proudly after his house was connected.
Anandpur is just one beneficiary of an ambitious plan Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced in his Independence Day speech last August to bring electricity to 18,452 Indian villages.
Government figures released last year showed that more than 300 million people still have no access to electricity.
Per-capital electricity consumption is barely one third of the global average.
Speaking from the ramparts of the Red Fort in Delhi, PM Modi said those villagers had been “deprived of the rays of development,” promising to finish the job within 1,000 days and saying the country was “not ready to wait for 10 years”.
It has not been an easy task.
Dinesh Arora, who runs the scheme for the Power Ministry, says the communities targeted are the “the toughest villages in most extreme corners of the country”.
Many cannot be reached by road or are in areas riven by violence.
Two of Mr Arora’s engineers were kidnapped and by Naxals, while another team had to swim across a river to reach their destination.
Even once they reached the villages, some were given a hostile reception by residents suspicious of local governments that had given them little help in the past.
The country’s federal structure has added to the challenges, with electricity provision usually handled at the state level.
Each state has its own, often loss-making power providers, which are not always eager to extend provision to the poorest villages where revenues are unlikely to justify the cost.
Nonetheless, since PM Modi launched the scheme, over 7,700 villages have been connected to the grid.
As the main power line to Anandpur is switched on, the local men who had gathered excitedly round the visiting officials to watch the run screaming towards their mostly mud and brick houses yelling, “did it come?”.
“My husband has promised that we will now buy a fan and sleep peacefully at night, without mosquitoes,” said Urmila Devi, who lived in a village with electricity before she married and had to get used to kerosene lamps in Anandpur.
Only 18 of the 25 households in Anandpur agreed to get connected and have the free electricity metre installed — the other seven were unsure they could afford the monthly bill of between Rs 70 and 140.