Patna: On Sunday, the government made a major announcement. With a remote village in Manipur being connected to the electricity grid, it claimed that all villages in the country were now electrified.
A reality check conducted by News18 in Bihar, however, has found that even some villages just a few kilometres from capital Patna were dependent on lanterns despite being electrified. Travel a little further and it is clear that many villages are electrified only on paper as they don’t even have any infrastructure to supply electricity.
Even before the Centre, the Nitish Kumar government had on December 27 last year, said that the target of electricity connection in all revenue villages had been achieved.
However villages across the river Ganga, situated just 15 kilometers away from Patna, had no sign of electricity supply. Villagers in Madhopur Diara were ecstatic when they saw electricity poles and a transformer for the first time last year. Soon, it was connected to a feeder and a date for formal inauguration was announced.
Local MP Ramkripal Yadav and Danapur MLA Asha Devi pressed a switch that lit up a bulb amid thunderous applause.
But their cheer lasted just four hours. A local, Pramod Kumar, said, “Bijli netaon ke jaane ke saath hi chali gayi (electricity went with the politicians).” His wife Sonia Devi, showing a lantern, said no one came after that inauguration and they were left to live in the dark.
In Mishraulia, villagers get electricity bills but no electricity. (Photo: News18)
Unlike Madhopur Diara, 22 villages of West Champaran district, 175 kilometers away from Patna, are still not connected to electricity infrastructure. There was no sign of any electric pole or transformer. However, a few families have bought solar panels on their own.
This area is frequented by chief minister Nitish Kumar owing to his personal attachment with Mahatma Gandhi and his involvement in centenary celebration of Champaran Satyagrah, which concluded last month.
Gobarahia, Semrehni, Naurangia, Dhokni, Gardi are some of the villages under Ramnagar Block of the district where power supply is a distant dream. There is no sign of any infrastructure that would suggest any serious effort to connect these villages with the nearest feeder.
In some villages, electric poles were visible but cables had had not been laid. The government’s plan of providing solar panels also failed as batteries were not installed.
In Mishraulia, located just seven kilometers away from the district headquarter of Sitamarhi, villagers told News18 that during electrification drive officials visited them and collected two thousand rupees each for providing a connection. But that never happened.
Poles were erected but cables were missing and there was no sign of any transformer at the designated place. However, some families were provided meters for installation against the money they deposited.
Much to their surprise, they started getting bills against fixed charges without any sign of electricity.
About four thousand people live in this village, which has around 1,900 voters. Be it Assembly or Lok Sabha elections, Nitish Kumar always visits the place as most of the voters are from Kurmi community, to which he belongs.
“About 250 families applied for connection five years ago. But one can see our fate. We have pucca houses but we rely on a lantern in the evening. The government is making a joke of us by sending bills. We keep complaining but to no avail,” said Pappu Patel, a villager.
From Madhopur to Mishraurila, people are facing the double whammy of no power supply and less allotment of kerosene oil. Lalan Kumar of Mishraulia said, “Earlier we got three litres of kerosene each month but now my village is electrified on paper so the allotment has been halved. Now I get only 1.5 litres.” Kerosene is widely used in rural Bihar for lighting stoves and Lantern.
(With Inputs from Munna Raj in Champaran and Rakesh Kumar in Sitamarhi)