In the Union Budget presented by Finance Minister, Nirmala Sitharaman on 5th July, 2019, special attention was given to various ambitious plans of the Modi government in which Saubhagya scheme was also included. Under the scheme, electricity connection will be provided to all households in rural and urban areas by the year 2022. Saubhagya scheme was launched in 2017 to provide electricity to all the villages of the states including Uttar Pradesh, Odisha, Jammu & Kashmir, Jharkhand, Delhi, and Madhya Pradesh. The initial deadline for this scheme was December 2018. The goal was to provide electricity connection to every household in the country. In February this year, Jammu & Kashmir bagged the ‘Saubhagya Excellence Award’ for being the first state to achieve successful implementation of the scheme.
On October 17, 2018, ‘Greater Kashmir’, a Kashmir based English daily published a report quoting Commissioner Secretary Power Development Department, Hardesh Kumar. The report stated that 100% electrification had been completed in six districts of Srinagar, Badgam, Pulwama, Jammu, Samba, and Kathua in the state under the Saubhagya scheme, whereas in 16 other districts, the work is in the final phase. At the same time, he also informed that infrastructure had been built to connect 102 border villages of the state to provide electricity connection, and soon, the villages would be electrified. By May 31, 2019, 6337 villages in the rural areas of Jammu and Kashmir had received electricity connection under the ‘Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojana’ (Saubhagya), which is considered as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s dream project. Rs. 133.42 crores have been approved for the scheme out of which Rs. 53.24 crores have already been released. Also, Rs. 435.13 crores have been incurred from the additional amount of Rs 875.03 crore. According to Deendayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana, DDUGJY & Saubhaya: Status of Rural Electrification in Jammu & Kashmir dated June 30, 2019, 15,10,271 out of a total of 18,72,195 households have been exposed to electricity. Electrical connections have been provided to 8,861 additional households since February 1, 2019.
The Jammu & Kashmir State Electricity Department’s claims and figures show that the power system in Jammu and Kashmir is very good, and the process of electrifying the state is being implemented at a rapid pace. But on the other hand, if we look at the ground reality, the difference between reality and the claims is poles apart.
Under the Subhagya scheme, the aim was to provide electricity to all rural and urban households in India by December 2018. But even after the deadline had passed, the aim has not been achieved. However, since the launch of the Subhagya scheme, there has been great improvement in the situation of electricity in Jammu and Kashmir, but there are many such areas where electricity wires and pillars are yet to reach. From a geographical perspective, most areas of Jammu and Kashmir are located on mountainous regions which are covered with snow for more than half of the year. In such areas, uninterrupted supply of electricity is the biggest challenge. Several times, the snow storms in these areas also badly affect the power system. Besides, the electric system is disrupted in many areas of the state because wooden poles have been used to support the electric cables which often crumble under heavy thunderstorm and rain. Many a time, there have been incidents when the electricity current that runs through the broken poles has proved fatal for the local residents.
People’s problems do not end here. To meet high electricity demands, the power supply system is modified which would then lead to low voltage which in turn creates trouble for the villagers. Ladoran, a village located on the North West Hills, which is 10 km away from Kupwara, the district headquarter, is also a victim of power mismanagement. The village has a population of 3200. But even today, the electricity in the village is negligible. Villagers have to make alternative arrangements even after a bulb is lit due to low voltage. It was a challenging task to transport electric wires and poles to the mountainous village, but they were installed successfully. However, the continued issue with low voltage of electricity in the village has raised questions about the success of the state electricity department. Poor electricity is affecting the health of the villagers as well the students whose studies are constantly being interrupted.
According to Dilshada Bano, a local student studying in tenth class, due to low voltage, every student is unable to complete their homework given at school on time due to which their teachers would scold them. Also the future of the students preparing for competitive exams looks grim. This is the reason that many students are giving up on their studies gradually. Although the state electricity department has spent millions in delivering electrical equipment to the village, but due to high demand, the low-megawatt transformers installed could not solve the problem. In a situation such as this, the availability of electricity is considered as equivalent to none. Due to high costs involved with solar power, the option is not available to the villagers.
In this regard, village Sarpanch Ghulam Mohiuddin Vani also considers the complaints of people on electricity issues as valid. He says that in relation to low voltage, he has raised their concerns to the high officials of the department many times but nothing has happened except for their assurance. According to the Sarpanch, the village needs at least 10 MW whereas only 6 MW transformer has been installed by the department due to which excessive load on the transformer increases and results in low voltage problems. The issue can be addressed by installing high MW transformers.
Apart from this, the difficulty that the villagers face in regard to low voltage electricity can be fixed by timely repairs of electrical wires and by replacing wooden poles with proper poles. Though the department has nominated this village under the DDUGJY last year, the villagers are yet to receive its benefits. They hope that the plan from the center comes out of papers and reaches 100% to the common man. In this village, the flame of education will burn one day.
Basharat Akhtar – Kupwara, Jammu & Kashmir