Rajesh Kumar Singh
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi unveiled a 163.2 billion-rupees ($2.5 billion) program to ensure electricity for all households.
The program will help poor people get electricity connections at no cost, Modi said in a speech in New Delhi on Monday, adding that his government is making efforts to provide power to about 3,000 unelectrified villages. The nation will aim to complete electrification of all households by December 2018, Power Minister R. K. Singh said at the same event.
The announcement comes amid concerns over a slowing economy, which has led the government to consider measures to boost growth. Modi stormed to power in 2014 with popular promises such as job creation and electricity for all and will be tested on the pledges in 2019, when he faces re-election.
“Power for all is a very ambitious plan and the prime minister knows the political gains it can bring if he can pull it off,” said Sandeep Shastri, a political analyst and a pro vice chancellor at Jain University in Bengaluru. “So, when he announces schemes to connect all households, beyond a shadow of doubt he has the 2019 elections in mind.”
Nearly 304 million Indians don’t have access to electricity, accounting for about a quarter of the global population living without power, according to NITI Aayog, a government think-tank. Several of these are in rural areas, where state power retailers are reluctant to supply electricity as returns fall below the investment made in infrastructure.
“To improve the electricity scenario in the country, we have worked on four fronts–production, transmission, distribution and connection,” Modi said. The plan will be funded by a mix of federal government grants, investment by state utilities and loans, according to a statement.