During his Gujarat election campaigning, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is seen repeatedly referring to the power reforms he implemented in the State about 20 years ago as the Chief Minister.
In fact, Gujarat’s power reforms have been one of the successes the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party tries to encash its development pitch anywhere.
The Jyoti Gram Yojana (JGY) — feeder bifurcation scheme — that ensured round-the-clock three-phase power supply for domestic and commercial users in rural areas, remains a key pillar of Modi’s ‘Gujarat Model’.
Responding villagers’ demands
JGY has strong electoral significance. Out of the 182 Assembly seats in Gujarat, 109 are rural constituencies, while urban seats are only 73.
“When I took charge as Chief Minister, I was flooded with requests from villages to provide them power at least at the time of evening meals. I considered it as my priority and we brought the Jyoti Gram Yojana,” Modi said at a rally in Veraval on Sunday.
On Wednesday in Mehsana, Modi gave an account of the achievements of JGY, which has also been replicated at the national level, powering all villages of India.
“We set up 80,000 km of transmission lines connecting every corner of Gujarat. We installed 20 lakh electricity poles in the State. There were about 55 lakh electricity connections in Gujarat 20 years ago. Today, there are 2 crore connections. And farm connections were less than five lakh, which is over 20 lakh today,” he said, claiming credit for bringing convenience for farmers and rural communities through the JGY.
What is the Jyoti Gram Yojana?
Till the early 2000s, several parts of rural Gujarat didn’t get access to electricity at night. The power was diverted to agriculture for irrigation.
Modi administration in 2003 decided to separate the 11-kilovolt (kV) electric feeder for domestic and commercial use to provide continuous power while keeping agriculture feeders separate for irrigation purposes.
This necessitated the setting up of a parallel rural electricity distribution network of 78,454 km of new transmission lines and 2,257 units of JGY feeders. It required investments of ₹1,290 crore to ensure a round-the-clock 3-phase power supply to Gujarat’s 18,000 villages and 9,700 hamlets.
Impact of JGY
The scheme yielded a multiplier effect on the rural society and economy, which became a stimulus for the development of healthcare, communication, consumer, and academic facilities. It eventually helped in slowing down the pace of rural-to-urban migration during the decade of 2002-2012.
The success of JGY became a guiding force for the Centre to light up all unelectrified villages of India.
In his Union Budget 2015-16, the then Finance Minister Arun Jaitley allocated ₹500 crore for the ‘Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana’ of feeder separation to provide 24x7 uninterrupted power supply to all homes in villages of India.
If infrastructure development is seen as the crown of Modi’s Gujarat Model, the jewel in the crown was JGY.
Countering Opposition parties
Taking credit for ushering in the era of renewable energy in Gujarat, Modi said that today, the State produces 8,000 MW of solar power and 10,000 MW of wind energy.
Earlier this year, Modhera in North Gujarat was declared as the country’s first solar village.
Countering the opposition’s “free power” promise, Modi said, “In Modhera, people get zero electricity bill because they have rooftop solar installed. They generate their own power and even sell it to the grid.”
The poll narrative on electricity is changing fast from “power to all” to “free power”, and now “earning from power”.