The second Supplementary Demand for Grants, released in early September 2011, mentions an additional expenditure of Rs 33 crore by the Directorate of Advertising and Visual Publicity (DAVP). This is under the scheme “Development Publicity Programme (Conception and Dissemination)” for the publicity campaign of Bharat Nirman.It is surely an important scheme as the budget outlay has been increased to Rs1,18,001 crore in 2010-2011, from Rs 1,07,819 crore in 2009-2010. A major part of it is spent for rural electrification.

Bharat Nirman’s RoleNow, Bharat Nirman caters to various social rural development schemes like rural electrification, roads, irrigation, housing, rural telecommunication, and drinking water. We take a look at what Bharat Nirman has done in the field of rural electrification and try and establish how much this scheme has independently achieved as opposed to a continuation of efforts already in motion.

The Ministry of Power, in 2005, started its flagship programme called the Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojana (RGVVY), which was brought under the Bharat Nirman programme, just 8 months after inception. Before the RGGVY rural electrification were mainly done by two schemes of the Power Ministry, Pradhan Mantri Gramodaya Yojana and Accelerated Rural Electrification Programme, which were discontinued from 2005-2006 and two other schemes were merged with the newly introduced Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojana (RGGVY).

Before going any further, let us give you a snapshot of India’s electricity scene. Before the start of the RGVVY and Bharat Nirman, the situation was quite dismal. Population without electricity in India stood at 579 million in 2005. India had 593,732 inhabited villages (Census 2001) of which 119,570 villages were not electrified. India had 138 million rural households and only 42-44% rural households were electrified. To be precise, 78 million rural households stood un-electrified.

RGGVY & Bharat Nirman

In 2005, Bharat Nirman set a target that “125,000 uncovered villages would be covered by 2009 as well as connections would be given to 23 million rural households” for the RGVVY.

The Centre would provide a 90% capital subsidy for the overall cost of the project, whereas below poverty line (BPL) households would be provided electricity with a 100% capital subsidy, which is Rs 1,500 per connection. The total estimated cost was Rs 51,000 crore for achieving this target.

The RGGVY, on the other hand started well before receiving guidelines from Bharat Nirman. In the first eight months only, projects for 182 districts were sanctioned at a cost of Rs. 5,861 crore which covered 51,037 un-electrified villages and 64, 72,006 rural households which includes 42, 19,415 BPL households. Till November 2005, 1,419 villages in UP and Bihar were already electrified.

RGGVY’s Accomplishments

We decided to compare the target fulfilled by RGGVY since its inception, at April, 2005 till the 31st of January, 2010 with the specific goals of the Bharat Nirman. Bharat Nirman had specified that 1, 25,000 village and 2.3 crore rural households needs to be covered by 2009. The cumulative achievement of RGGVY stands at electrification of 71,793 un-electrified villages( break up in the following table), intensive electrification of 1,02,759 already electrified villages and release of connections to 91,15,691 BPL households.

Number Of Villages Electrified Under RGGVY

Now if we add 71,793(villages electrified) with 1, 02,759 (intensive electrification of already electrified villages) it comes to 1, 74, 552, which is more than the stipulated target specified by Bharat Nirman. Now if we deduct 51,037 villages, which were already given a go ahead before the diktats of Bharat Nirman from 1, 74,552, then it comes to 1, 23,515. Interestingly, the target seems achieved (almost).

Twist In The Tale

Surprisingly, a major chunk of ‘village electrification’ comes from more than 1 Lakh villages which are ‘already electrified’. Ministry of Power says these villages were intensively electrified. However, the Bharat Nirman goal was to “electrify 1, 25,000 uncovered villages”! We are not sure whether ‘already electrified villages’ fall under ‘uncovered villages’. At the same time we can be sure that intensive electrification cannot mean that, these villages were electrified , but had no electricity connection for at least 10% of its rural households or, for that matter, the Panchayat Offices , Health Centres, Schools had no electricity and thus, intensively electrified.

We are not sure if this is a way of inflating numbers to be answerable to Big Brother (Bharat Nirman) scheme of all important rural development measures, as the Bharat Nirman document clearly says ““Bharat Nirman will be a time-bound business plan for action in rural infrastructure for the next four years. We have set specific targets to be achieved under each of these goals so that there is accountability in the progress of this initiative” – Dr. Manmohan Singh. If not, then Bharat Nirman has really done a commendable job. Another problem that we found out while writing this article is the discrepancies in the public documents. Ministry of Power’s progress reports have no connectivity with the written answers given by the MoS, Power and K C Venugopal in the Rajya Sabha on the 7th of December, 2011. According to him, so far, Ministry has sanctioned projects to electrify 1, 10,321 villages!