The Pradhan Mantri Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojana, or the ‘Saubhagya’ scheme: An overview of Electrification and current challenges in India. - Seeker's Thoughts

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The Pradhan Mantri Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojana, or the ‘Saubhagya’ scheme: An overview of Electrification and current challenges in India.

Launch Date - Sep 25, 2017
Objective - 'last mile electricity connectivity to all rural and urban households'
Target- Both Rural and Urban Areas by December, 2018.
Nodal Agency – The Rural Electrification Corporation Limited.
A look back- Providing electricity remains one among the major problem of Indian Government. There have been constant efforts by different governments to solve this problem. The Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojana launched by the UPA government in 2005 aimed at providing free electricity to Poor, as well as the Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana launched in 2015. 
Saubhagya Scheme- Saubhagya Scheme has been launched in September 2017, by PM Narendra Modi to provide electrification to four crore people by the end of December 2018. It has following features/ Benefits-
·       Distribution- Under the Saubhagya scheme, electricity connections will be given free to people (Below Poverty Line) identified by the Socio-Economic and Caste Census of 2011 while others (Above Poverty Line) will have to give Rs 500, payable in 10 installments in the bill
·       Mobile App- A mobile app would be used for easy and speedy implementation identification of beneficiaries and on-the-spot registration of applications, which would include an identity proof
·       Solar Power Pack- Under the scheme, Centre will also provide solar power packs of 200 to 300 watt-peak (Wp), along with battery bank, for un-electrified households located in remote and inaccessible areas. This solar pack will include five LED lights, one DC fan and one DC power plug
·       Funding Procedure- The scheme is being funded in the following ratio: 60 per cent by central grants, 30 per cent by bank loans and 10 per cent by states 
·       Fixed Deadline- States that are able to complete the scheme by the deadline, which is December next year, would be given an additional 15 per cent grant by the Centre as incentive.
·       Authorization- Gram Panchayat/Public institutions in rural areas will be authorised to collect application forms along with complete documentation, distribute bills and collect revenue in consultation with Panchayat Raj Institutions (pris) and Urban Local Bodies (ulbs).
Present Challenges-  Different governments brought different schemes to provide electrification, however there have been constant challenges in front of government. Some of them are given below- 
1.      Affordability – Even if the government aims at providing free connection to the poor like earlier schemes, it still remains questionable that how poor will maintain the cost of electric bill. In fact, by failing to account for illegal connections taken by households which find it difficult to afford legal access to power, government data on electricity accessibility understate penetration.
2.      Structural Problems- The entire structure of Distribution Company is broken, even after UDAY Scheme has been trying to help.
3.      The power generation utilities remain vastly under-utilized- The plant load factor (PLF) of coal and lignite-based plants, an indicator of capacity utilization of power generation units, has dropped consistently over the decade from 77.5% in 2009-10 to 59.88% in 2016-17, according to data from the Central Electricity Authority.
4.      Populism in the pricing of electricity- In the absence of the freedom to sell at a profitable price, distribution agencies have had very little incentive to demand more electricity from power generators, as evident in the constantly falling PLF. 
5.      Less Investment- Due to less profitability, the segment had failed to attract the investment.
Benefits of Saubhagya Scheme-
According to Policy makers, every scheme has a package of offering certain benefits. Saubhagya Scheme also offers following benefits-
·         Better health services: In villages due to lack of electricity, there are chances of falling sick from the numerous diseases. Electricity can be used in fighting with diseases spread by Mosquitoes etc. Purification of water is also possible as well as clean sources of cooking can help in achieving better health.
·         Improvement education services: Electrification will help in improving education as there will be more access to services through internet as well as light provides an appropriate medium for studying in the context of light. 
·         Increased economic activities and jobs: Economics activities will certainly get boosted due to electricity, work can be done and sometimes electric equipments reduce the labour and time required to complete a task.
·         Improved quality of life especially for women: Women is the sufferer of first grade when it comes to villages. Use of kerosene, coal and wood harms them in long way. Electrification will help in improving their lives.  
·         Enhanced connectivity through radio, television, mobiles, etc.: Connectivity will be easier after electrification. The more and genuine information can be provided to self help groups , farmers and women. 
·         Environmental up gradation by substitution of Kerosene for lighting purposes: Electricity will indirectly contribute in environmental up gradation as well.
Conclusion – Though, there have been constant schemes for gaining the same result and all of them provided a partial improvement, yet one cannot leave the problem and stay idle. The problem is not that the schemes have failed. The reality is multi dimensional, and there are enormous amount of things to improve. Centre has fixed a deadline to complete the target, yet affordability remains a challenge. Government can not leave price regulation at spur at the moment as majority of population is below poverty line, yet there can be better solution in upcoming days. 

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