Saturday, April 16, 2016

Rapid pace of Rural Electrification of 18,452 villages

In months that I have been tracking this particular news it is heartening to know that an entire team of Power Ministry is working extremely hard to ensure no village remains without electricity. The PM Modi had announced all remaining 18,452 villages to get electricity in 1000 days since Aug 2014.

Since then the pace at which this is being achieved is unprecedented in the history of independent India. There are several villages where electricity was only dreamt of. To see an electric pole or wires transmitting electricity was a distant dream. As of April 2016 - 7,146 villages are electrified. The govt is extremely serious about this issue and this can be just gauged by the fact that the Power Minister - Piyush Goyal has opened a real Android/iphone app to track this and has made public all the field engineers in charge of every village so that they could be contacted right away for any issues. The dashboard keeps getting updated as the implementation progresses.

However, electrification doesn't mean 24 hour electricity.  The intention is once you have the grid to every village - it is only a matter of time that the grid can be supplied with uninterrupted electricity. If one looks at the progress the government has  - 1) Already achieved annual goal of 5000MW of Solar energy 2) Reduced Coal import by Rs.28,000 Crore because of record coal production through transparent mechanism. 3) ensured that 66 out of 100 coal plants had no coal at all before 2014 - but no plant today faces any coal shortage.

There are villages that are also provided electricity through renewable sources and are currently off grid.

In short, until 2014 because of the coal scam during the UPA II government electricity generation through coal was drastically reduced; mining coal came to a halt; country was importing high amount of coal causing enough load on fiscal deficit. These no longer exist. On the contrary, India has stopped coal imports this year completely (Source)

Should India celebrate then? No, it is too soon. If we don't see electricity cuts for 2 successive years we would have achieved something unthinkable since Independence.

Here's a reality check of 7000 villages being electrified on NDTV. Interestingly, 85% of villages in UP are now electrified.

There are numerous such success stories on how life is changing for these villages where electricity is reached

In Saharanpur there was no electricity since independence. It is amazing to see how life has changed for people now. Here's the article published in Navbharat times

The eastern states - Bihar, Odisha, Arunachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Assam - are having the highest number of unelectrified villages after Uttar Pradesh in the north. The key to electrification is how quickly government can electrify these.

Earlier, a village was considered electrified if its public places and 10% of its households have electricity. This criteria has been now changed and the new field officers - Gram Vidyut Abhiyantas (GVA) verifying that the entire village is electrified. The approach is to not use state government's data alone, which is found to be error prone. These GVA's update the dashboard and make it public to everyone as they notice the progress.

"Hindu"(Source) newspaper reported that these GVA's numbers show discrepancy as well - but out of 7000 villages only 30 could not be guaranteed as "electrified" even though dashboard shows it. This is still a very low error rate compared to 7000 villages.

There cannot be any iota of doubt with the fact that the government is so serious about bringing in the transformation of lives by electrifying villages.  The target now is 3074 villages to be electrified through off grid mainly because of geographic barriers and 438 villages by the state governments themselves. If this pace continues surely within a year all villages will be electrified.

Building the infrastructure to supply electricity is one good thing, however, the best thing that can happen is round the clock electricity without any load shedding. Is the government really doing enough on this? The answer is mixed bag. However, if the electricity generation supply surpasses the demand it will be a breakthrough.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Top 12 Initiatives/Policies from the government that has had positive impact on common people

Since the Modi government came to power in 2014 it has been facing relentless criticism for good and bad reasons. No government is perfect and healthy criticism is always needed. After Rahul Gandhi made a statement that Modi govt is that of "Suit boot ki Sarakar" - I began to introspect if this is indeed true.  The irony is that it is the same suit boot (industries and corporates) stand to benefit the least from the government's policies so far. Industries, corporates and small start ups are waiting for drastic reforms in ease of doing business that hasn't happened. 

So, does this mean the government has done something in other non-corporate sectors? The answer is "Yes". There are several initiatives and policies whose implementation has to begun to show concrete results. I list just some of them that has had an impact on the common people. This is in no particular order of preference.

1) MUDRA Yojana - (Micro Units Development Refinance Agency) - a scheme to promote entrepreneurs, especially, in the lower strata of the society.  The government will provide financial assistance and proper guidance in setting up a company or a business whose proposal is accepted by the banks. The lending amount is 50,000 (SHISHU), 50k-5 lakh (KISHOR),  5-10 lakh (TARUN). The objective is not just to finance these budding entrepreneurs, but also guide them from a technical stand point and help them in registration and official set up of the business venture. Once a proposal is accepted MUDRA scheme will finance from banks, financial institutions (Non-banking) and micro financial institutions. Close to 44,000 crore rupees have been sanctioned so far under this Yojana. Even though the pace of the growth is not as expected the initiative has helped nearly 66 lakh people, mainly women, who are able to run their own small company. The PM himself made a mention of a lady in Madhya Pradesh (source) who is now able to make wallets and supply to her village and district because of Mudra Yojana.

MUDRA is good only for selected people who have had no access to capital. This cannot be used for agricultural or corporate needs. Start ups that can fuel more jobs are kept out of MUDRA. This is where a similar scheme must exist to propel economic growth,

2) Direct Benefit Transfer of LPG (PAHAL) - This scheme is quite popular where the beneficiaries pay market price for LPG cylinder and get the difference of market and subsidized price in bank accounts.  This is one of the most transparent ways in which LPG has reached the intended beneficiary. Recently, "1906" helpline number was launched (24*7) for customers be able to lodge complaints, talk to all 3 major oil marketing companies that distribute LPG. is a dedicated website only for this scheme and one can see how the scheme has benefited 14.79 crore beneficies.

3) Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Beema Yojana - under which you get Rs 2 lakh accidental life insurance cover for Rs.330 per year which is so cheap. Never before in India has insurance penetration been so high. 2.8 crore members are beneficiaries of this Yojana. 

4) Atal Pension Yojana - under which after retirement age a person is entitled to get a guaranteed amount ranging anywhere between Rs.1000-Rs 5000 per month. Although the amount is too small, it can only act as some sort of additional income to the beneficiary. For more, read here at This amount is hardly enough to sustain a life, but it is better than getting nothing from the government.

5) Sukanya Samriddhi Yojana: The father/mother of a girl child can open a bank account in India under this and deposit amount (amount restrictions apply) where 9.25% annual interest rate is added every year. This is a phenomenal scheme available  to all Indian citizens by which they can save money for the girl child. Close to a million accounts have been opened so far.

6) Self- attestation scheme for all government services - The existing non-sense notarized attestation mechanism was the order of the day and citizens were harassed in this regard. The government passed an order that self attestation is sufficient on all the copies of the documents while applying for a service. The applicant must provide the originals only at the time of delivery of service. Even though Center has passed this order, all states have to ratify the decision. As of now most states have accepted this. 

7) Abolition of interviews for Class III and IV Central and state government jobs. These jobs are those of peons, clerks, junior engineers and many more in central and state government offices. Most of the vacancies were being filled by bribing selected officials. Now, interview has been banned and some form of aptitude test has been replaced in most positions. This is a huge step since it can curb corruption. The meritorious were kept out of the system (source). Only time will tell if this has turned out to be efficient. The intricate details of this new test is not yet known. 

8) Huge job opportunities for people of Bihar because of 2 locomotive plants - US company GE and French company Alstom together won the bid for building train locomotives in Madhepura in Bihar. This is 100% FDI in Railways and they will manufacture 1,000 locomotives of 4,500 hp and 6,000 hp, to be supplied annually over 10 years and 800 locomotives of 12,000 hp to be supplied over 10 years (source) respectively. This is the largest investment of this kind in Railways. This is a win-win situation for Indian Railways and people as Railways will get some best practices in the design of locomotives while people will get employment.

9) Several initiatives in Indian Railways - I had written a separate blog regarding this that can be read here 

10) Indian Railways has partnered with several food chains like Haldrirams, MTR, Food panda and now wants to promote Self Help Groups whose ownership is held by women(here). These SHG's give employment so many women whose lives depend upon their culinary skills. By giving them a market Indian Railways has created a win-win situation for both customers and SHG's.

11) EPF Withdrawl made easier - Until now if one had to switch jobs or move to different places an EPF account had to be every where and this created confusion for lakhs of employees. In addition to this the employee had to get employer's signature to do the same. The government passed an order that the EPF account once opened will be with the employee forever irrespective of job or place switch and that the employee doesn't require the consent of the employer (source). 

12) All NCERT + CBSE Text books from Class 1 to 12 have now been made online and available via Mobile app (source) for free. The app is called E-Pathshala.

Our PM is not someone who will give into vote banks. He has a vision and strategy that none of the contemporary politicians have. He is working round the clock with no break. However, any strategy that doesn't take into account the pulse of the people can boomerang in the long term. He needs to be cognizant of this. Art of adaptation is an art in itself. Our PM will have to adapt himself and change his strategy in 2016 to make sure the performance accelerates.