- 400 of 1,500 villages in Sonbhadra district have no power
- 10 power plants and a huge dam are located here
- Power was first promised in the 1960s; no sign of electricity
Sonbhadara: As the sun sets in a small village in Eastern Uttar Pradesh, it’s lights out. In huts and in small neighbourhood shops, kerosene lamps flicker.
The rub lies in the fact that barely a five-minute walk away is the Rihand Dam, one of the largest in the country. Embedded around it are as many as 10 power plants, some operated by the centre and others by the state government, that collectively generate over 10,000 megawatts of electricity.
This is easily one of the most prolific power centres in India. Yet, the Godara Tola village gets no electricity despite its location.
Jai Mangal, Ram Lagan, and Kamal Bhan, all approaching their 70s, say that in the 1960s, the village they lived in was submerged as the massive new reservoir was set up. They relocated to Godara Tola, two km away, encouraged by promises of 24X7 electricity.
Decades later, the village does not have even an electricity pole.” I don’t know if I will be able to see power in my lifetime. When we gave up our land and moved here, Jawahar Lal Nehru was the Prime Minister. Since then many came, many have died, our situation still remains the same,” says Jai Mangal, standing near a hill from where the Rihand Dam can be seen.
Of Sonbhadra’s 1,500 villages, nearly 400 have never been electrified. The others are serviced with an erratic supply that’s never enough.
Delivering power to villages was vowed both by the central and state government ahead of the most recent election. The centre says that Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav has electrified just three villages between 2012 and 2014. The 43-year-old Chief Minister’s claim is staggeringly different-he alleges that nearly 97,000 large villages have been transformed with at least a few hours of electricity every day.
With Uttar Pradesh entering election season, Rupa Devi, 25, can predict the promises that she and others will soon be fed.
Originally from a village in Chhattisgarh which has electricity, she moved after marriage to Sonbhadara where she has found a way to utilize the electric wires and poles that have stood impotent for decades. She uses them to hang her washing.