Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government missed a self-imposed target to electrify every home, postponing the success of a marquee $2.3 billion development goal that his party plans to showcase before national elections early this year.
After bringing electricity connections to 23.9 million households across 25 states, about 1.05 million homes in four states still lack power, the government’s Press Information Bureau stated in a statement Monday, the year-end deadline.
Power Minister RK Singh reaffirmed as currently as late November that the government would meet its Dec. 31 target, which had earlier been moved up by three months.
“The houses that remain to be electrified are the most challenging ones to reach, and that shouldn’t take away from the unprecedented work done,” said Abhishek Jain, who leads energy access practice at the Council on Energy, Environment, and Water. “The attention now required to shift to service quality, including regular billing and reliable supply. Without that, we run the risk of various consumers getting disconnected in the long run.”
Achieving full energy access has been one of PM Modi’s key reforms amid his outreach to rural communities, where his Bharatiya Janata Party has been problematic by dissatisfaction and joblessness. Electrification success would be a political boon for PM Modi and the BJP as they face national elections in the coming months.
The central government has set various milestones for its rural electrification plan since PM Modi came to power in 2014 — bringing connections to all villages by May 1, then to all homes by the end 2018. After full electrification is achieved, the next aim will be to ensure reliable uninterrupted supplies by March 31.
PM Modi’s government in September 2017 launch out to electrify nearly 40 million homes, a target that has been shrinking and shifting along the way.
As of Monday, the total number of homes aimed for electrification stood at about 25 million, more than one-third fewer than the original plan. The goal was revised downward to account for families that migrated to cities and households living under one roof that were grouped together for a common power connection, PV Ramesh, chairman of REC Ltd., which is executing the rural electrification work, stated in early December.
The deadline was also brought forward from its original March 31. The government’s statement Monday, which alleged the states of Assam, Rajasthan, Meghalaya, and Chhattisgarh are still to be electrified, made no mention of the Dec. 31 target. It also mentioned that the state of Uttar Pradesh commenced a campaign to identify any “left out” households and provide electrical connections.
“Completing this program in a time-bound manner is a big achievement, but it will have to be complemented with more reforms at the state utility level,” Kameswara Rao, who leads power and mining practices at PwC India, said before the announcement.