Electrification of rural India has been right on top of almost every government’s agenda ever since the country gained independence from British rule and started to take decisive steps towards the nation’s development. In what can only be described as a significant milestone, the southern state of Kerala is set to be fully electrified starting today. On Monday, 30 May, 2017, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan declared the state the first fully electrified state in the country.
The Milestone Lights Up
The state’s Electricity Minister MM Mani confirmed that the last phase of this ambitious project had been completed and over 1.5 lakh households (including 1.32 households that fall below poverty line) had been provided electricity connections in the past year. Complete wiring of about nearly 60,000 houses was also undertaken in this period. In many cases the families were very poor and could not afford the wiring work. Employee unions of the Kerala State Electricity Board, government funds, MLA/MP contributions and private donors stepped in and financed the wiring of these households. These donations added up to about INR 63.82 crore.
The government had said, a couple of months ago, that while plans to provide electrification to even the remotest village were on track, it had encountered considerable challenges in the forests and mountainous regions of Wayanad and Idukki. Now that these impediments have been overcome, the achievement comes as a feather in the cap of the Left Democratic Front government which is currently celebrating its first anniversary.
Understanding Electrification Of Villages
Let us take a minute here and understand what is generally meant by total electrification. Currently in Indian parlance a village is declared to be fully electrified if a tenth of the households have electricity connections and at least two public utilities in the village have electricity supply. In Kerala, however, this is not the case. The KSEB has some 1.25 crore consumers, states a news report. The report also says that all households in the state, except 1046 houses, now have electricity. These 1046 houses are deep within forested areas and their right of residence in these parts itself is in question. The Forest Department and the courts of Kerala have raised objections to their residence in such wilderness where they put their lives and the flora and fauna in danger.
Looking Beyond Electrification
While admittedly achieving 100 percent electrification is a wonderful achievement, the state government of Kerala is in no mood to become complacent. In what may come as glad tidings for environmental activists, the CM said that the administration shall now proceed to look beyond hydroelectric projects and start to look at clean renewable sources of energy for the needs of the state. In fact, the government did not seem particularly keen on implementing the hydroelectric power project to be constructed on the Athirapilly Falls, which still remains in the planning stage. The Athirapally area is home to a number of birds, some of them endangered and the construction of the project has faced much opposition from environmental activists in recent times.
This announcement coming from the CM also ties in neatly with the national agenda of moving towards solar energy usage. “We need to think of tapping the potential of solar energy when we think of constructing houses or new buildings. All the houses should have solar panels. If offices have solar panels, they can manufacture the power for their needs”, he said. This also means that the state will soon move towards becoming a “no power outage” state.