Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday slammed the previous UPA regime for tardy implementation of its target to electrify all households, and said that his government will provide connections to about 2.67 crore remaining homes by the end of this year.
Interacting with beneficiaries of the Rs 16,320-crore Pradhan Mantri Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojana (Saughagya) through video bridge, he said that the then Congress President (Sonia Gandhi) had gone overboard by promising that all households will be electrified by 2009.
This is the tenth interaction in the series by the Prime Minister through video conference with the beneficiaries of various government schemes.
Modi also interacted with people from Leisang village in Manipur, which was the last among the 18,000 villages to have been electrified by the government.
In an official communication issued on March 29, 2005, as Chairperson of National Advisory Council, Gandhi had said, “I am very happy to know that the ‘Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyuyikaran Yojana’ is being launched by the Ministry of Power. It is an initiative which will go a long way in realising the goal of providing access to electricity to all households by the year 2009.”
She had also said: “This programme will speed up the development of our rural areas, generate vast opportunities for employment and contribute to more equitable growth. Harnessing science and technology for the benefit of our people was something dear to Rajivi. He would have been very happy with this programme. I wish all those associated with the implementation of the programme success in this endeavour.”
About that promise, Modi said: “When our government came to power, there were 18,000 unelectrified villages. Earlier governments made many promises to provide electricity but those were not fulfilled. Nothing was done in that direction.
“In 2005, about 13 years ago, at that time there was a Congress government, Manmohan Singh was the Prime Minister. They promised to provide electricity to all villages by 2009. The then Congress President (Gandhi) went overboard and said electricity will be provided to all households by 2009.”
Under the Saubhagya scheme, Modi government plans to electrify about 3.6 crore households in the country by March 31, 2019. As many as 88.01 crore households have already been electrified as per Saubhgya portal. The government is trying to meet the target sooner than that, by December 31 this year.
Earlier this month, power ministers of all states and union territories were unanimous on electrifying all households in the country by December 31, 2018, during the Power Ministers Conference in Shimla.
Modi said that those who considered doing public welfare should have gone to villages, asked about electrification, prepared reports and talked about civil society on this.
“Then it was possible, that electrification of households would have been completed by 2010 or 2011. But at that time, promised were not met because there was no serious leader.”
He further said that when his government takes its promises seriously, then all efforts are made by the opposition to find shortcomings.
“I believe that this is the strength of democracy that we try to do good and where there is shortcoming, highlight that and correct it,” he said.
Modi said the government plans to electrify nearly 4 crore households under the Saubhagya scheme, while 80-85 lakh of these have already been electrified. Poor families will be get free electricity connection.
“You must be listening to speeches of opposition. They talk about number of unelectrified households. Don’t think that this is our criticism. That is their criticism. This is the criticism of those who were running governments for past 70 years. They have kept the electrification work pending for us. We are trying to complete that,” he said.
Talking further about the scheme, he said: “If four crore families are not electrified then it does not mean that those households had electricity and Modi government has cut supplies. There was nothing in place. We are trying to create infrastructure for electrification.”
The Prime Minister said: “Criticise Modi as much as you can but all those people at villages who work hard to bring light (electrification) should be honoured. We should try to encourage them. Our job is not to count problems but to find remedies for those.”
He said everybody wants optimum utilisation of time for progress, but if 12 hours from the day are reduced then what can people do. “You would not able to complete your tasks. Lakhs of people living in remote villages lived this kind of life. They had active life between sun rise and sun set (only). Availability of sun lights used to determine their working hours.”
Interacting with the Prime Minister, beneficiaries from far off villages shared their experiences as to how electricity has transformed their lives. Most of them said there has been an overall improvement in the quality of life.