‘Power-full’ Gujarat gives 24-hour electricity

published on March 4, 2013

Gujarat now supplies near 24-hour electricity not only to its large cities and towns but to the 18,000 villages, too.
AHMEDABAD: While people in almost half of India had to spend two dark nights after the northern power grid tripped in July last year, the Gujarat government was on a different trip. It was selling its surplus power to states like Rajasthan, Haryana, Punjab, Delhi and Maharashtra, earning a profit of around Rs 1,800 crore.

It is no wonder then that chief minister Narendra Modi tom-tomed the state’s 24-hour power supply to sell the Gujarat model of development for the rest of the country during his speech at the BJP national executive in Delhi on Sunday. “India has been forced to talk about the developmental model of Gujarat,” he said.

Gujarat now supplies near 24-hour electricity not only to its large cities and towns but to the 18,000 villages, too. All sources put together, Gujarat now produces about 14,000 MW power of which about 2,000 MW is surplus.

There are some dark spots – like the latest census shows 11 lakh homes in the state still have no power source – though. Of these, about 15% are in the urban areas. At least nine lakh homes are in rural areas, where the government claims to have implemented Jyoti Gram. About nine lakh houses use kerosene lamps to light their homes. Of this, over eight lakh are in the rural areas.

Gujarat energy minister Saurabh Patel says the government has promised 10 hours of electricity to farmers for agricultural purposes and is delivering on it. However, Praful Senjaliya, a farmer leader in Saurashtra associated with the Bharatiya Kisan Sangh, disagrees. “Farmers have never got 10 hours electricity. As it is, we don’t need much power because of drought-like situation. But the main problem is that electricity that is supplied for around five to eight hours is only at night and odd times. We have requested the government often to provide electricity in the day,” he says.

However, even the Centre has endorsed a part of Gujarat’s power story. The driving force behind large-scale electrification is the Jyoti Gram project. The Centre has accepted this as a flagship scheme for the 12th Five-Year plan (2012-17) for supplying round-the-clock, high-quality, three-phase power to all villages.

The project, behind which the state government has spent Rs 1,200 crore, was commissioned in 2006. It uses a separate electric feeder for domestic use and limited agricultural supply. It has also brought down transmission and distribution losses from 35% five years ago to about 19% in 2012.

The Planning Commission’s 2012 document ‘Faster, Sustainable and More Inclusive Growth: An Approach to the 12th Five Year Plan’, endorsed Jyoti Gram, saying, “The programme of feeder separation has to be carried through across the country. Gujarat has achieved very good results by combining feeder separation with an extensive watershed programme for groundwater recharge. Punjab, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh have also moved forward in this direction. Feeder separation needs to be extended to all states, especially where groundwater is extensively used.”

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