Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 25 September 2017 launched the Pradhan Mantri Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojana, which is alternatively known as -“Saubhagya”. The mandate of the scheme is to achieve universal household electrification in the country by the end of 2018. The scheme will benefit over 3 crore households across the length and breadth of the country.
It is against this backdrop, it is pertinent to know the key features of the Saubhagya Scheme and its benefits to the society and the challenges in its implementation.
Key features of the Saubhagya Scheme are -
Objective: The objective of the ‘Saubhagya’ is to provide energy access to all by last mile connectivity and electricity connections to all remaining un-electrified households in rural as well as urban areas of the country.
Goal: To provide universal access to power by December 2018. The scheme will be executed at a cost of Rs 16,320 crores.
Beneficiaries: While poorer households would be provided electricity connections free of cost as part of the scheme, other households would also be provided electricity connections under the scheme on payment of Rs.500. The amount is recovered by the DISCOMs/Power Departments in ten 10 instalments along with electricity bills.
The electricity connection to households include the release of electricity connections by drawing a service cable from the nearest electricity pole to the household premise, installation of energy meter, wiring for a single light point with LED bulb and a mobile charging point.
For households located in remote and inaccessible areas, solar power packs of 200 to 300 Watt and battery back with 5 LED light, 1 DC Fan, 1 DC power plug along with repair and maintenance for 5 years would be provided.
Convergence with other schemes: While the 24x7 Power for All is a joint initiative of the Union and State governments to prepare a road map and action plan to ensure 24x7 power for all, Saubhagya is a schematic support to address the issue of energy access. The saubhagya scheme was taken up by realizing the fact that providing connectivity to all households is a prerequisite to ensure 24x7 power supply.
Similarly, the Saubhayga scheme helps in comprehensively addressing the issues of entry barrier, last mile connectivity and release of electricity connections under the Deendayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana (DDUGJY) and Integrated Power Development Scheme (IPDS). It should be noted that DDUGHY envisages the creation of basic electricity infrastructure in villages / habitations, strengthening & augmentation of existing infrastructure, metering of existing feeders / distribution transformers / consumers to improve quality and reliability of power supply in rural areas, the IPDS provides for creation of necessary infrastructure to provide electricity in urban areas.
Budget: Rs. 16,320 crore allocated for the Pradhan Mantri Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojana.
Benefits of Saubhagya: The scheme will benefit the consumers in the following manner.
• Access to electricity would substitute the use of Kerosene for lighting purposes, resulting in reduction in indoor pollution thereby saving people from health hazards.
• Electricity access would help in establishing efficient and modern health services in all parts of the country.
• Lighting after the sunset also provides a sense of enhanced personal safety, especially for women, and increase in post sunset social as well as economic activities.
• Availability of electricity will boost education services across all areas and quality lighting post sunset would facilitate children to spend more time on studies and move ahead further in prospective careers. Household electrification also increases the likelihood that women would study and earn income.
• Substitution of use of Kerosene with electricity for lighting purposes would reduce annual subsidy on Kerosene and would also help reduce the import of petroleum products.
• Electricity in each home would provide improved access to all kinds of communications like Radio, Television, Internet, mobile, etc. through which everyone would be able to access all kinds of important information available through these communication mediums.
• Farmers can access information about new and improved agriculture techniques, agro-machinery, quality seeds, etc. resulting in a significant increase in agricultural production and consequently increase in income. Farmers and youths can also explore the possibilities of setting up agro based small industries.
• Implementation of scheme itself would result in employment generation in view of the requirement of semi-skilled / skilled manpower for execution of works of household electrification. About 1000 lakh man-days works would be generated for implementation of the scheme.
Challenges in implementation
The following are some of the challenges involved in the successful implementation of the Saubhagya Scheme.
• At present, the DISCOMs are under a huge debt burden running into thousands of crores of rupees. Though the Ujwal Discom Awas Yojana (UDAY) has been proving successful in improving the financial health of DISCOMs, the implementation of the Saubhaygay by the end of 2018 is a major challenge for them.
• The transmission and distribution losses of over 20% need to be reduced to a negligent level to achieve the goals of the scheme.
• The corruption and the apathy of the lower officials in the power sector should be corrected for its successful implementation. The involvement of Gram Sabhas in the implementation of the scheme is a welcome step in this regard.
Access to electricity definitely has positive impact on quality of life of people in all aspects of daily household chores and human development. The Saubhagya Scheme is a significant initiative since it touches various aspects of human life – employment, health, education and education. Its successful implementation is key to building smart villages, achieving energy security and improving the lives of people living in remote and inaccessible areas.