OBJECTIVE IAS

Kriyaa Hi Vastoopahutaa Praseedati

Current Affairs, Economic and Social Development, Economic Issues, Infomaterials

Saubhagya scheme: Scope and Challenges

A Saubhagya Beneficiary in Odisha

Background:

  • The Pradhan Mantri Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojana was launched in September 2017 with the aim to achieve universal household electrification by providing last mile connectivity and electricity connections to all households in rural and urban India.
  • The Rural Electrification Corporation Limited (REC) is the nodal agency for the operationalization of the scheme throughout India
  • Rural electrification scheme Deen Dayal Upadhyay Gram Jyoti Yojana considered a village electrified even if 10% of its households had access to power.

Scope of the scheme:

  1. Under the scheme free electricity connections are provided to below poverty line (BPL) households,
  2. Other households have to pay ₹500 for the connection. This is recoverable by the power distribution company in 10 instalments along with the electricity bills.
  3. The scheme envisages electricity connection for each household by drawing a service cable from the nearest electricity pole to the home, installing an energy meter, and wiring for a single light point with an LED bulb and a mobile charging point.
  4. Solar Photovoltaic (SPV) based standalone system to be provided for un-electrified households located in remote and inaccessible villages/habitations, where grid extension is not feasible or cost-effective.

Challenges

  • Despite the implementation of the Ujwal Discom Assurance Yojana (UDAY) scheme, the financial condition of DISCOMS remains a serious issue.
  • The scheme does not provide access to three-phase electricity and thus the range of appliances that the poor households can use are severely limited.
  • Billing and collection is a challenge for DISCOMS.
  • Only those households who can afford to pay for regular electricity consumption will benefit from the scheme.
  • The lack of adequate skilled resource to keep theft in check is a concern.
  • For many poor households, the high recurring costs of electricity consumption provides an incentive to indulge in electricity theft.
  • Due to reliability issues, electricity is generally a substitute and not alternative to fuels such as kerosene. Due to frequent power cuts and erratic electricity supply, households continue to use kerosene, diesel gensets and other fuels to augment their need for energy.
  • The Saubhagya scheme fails to ensure quality of service.

Way Forward

  • Ensuring effective monitoring and governance for better transparency and accountability is a key driver for successful implementation and sustenance of the universal household electrification.
  • In addition to the UDAY scheme, incentives should be provided to minimise power thefts and illegal connections in order to reduce financial losses incurred by DISCOMS.
  • Along with electricity connections, the government must ensure reliable electricity supply to rural and urban poor.
  • Further, electricity access should be viewed beyond lighting and mobile recharging, to promote livelihood enhancement through productive use.
  • Household LED light distribution program UJALA is a step in the right direction.
  • It is important to address the issue of affordability by ensuring cheap electric supply.

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