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|| आ नो भद्राः क्रतवो यन्तु विश्वतः || Let nobel thoughts come to us from everywhere, from all the world || 1.89.1 Rigveda ||
Section : Economics

Living in the dark for long
This sorry state of affairs certainly trashes all tall claims of the then Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who had promised electricity to every village in Bihar by 2015. His party, incidentally, is still in power.

By Nikhat Perveen

Villagers claim that it is not impossible to bring electricity. They put the blame of failure on a lax administration

Electricity-starved Bihar will get a 4,000 MW Ultra Mega Power Plant and the Centre will allocate sufficient number of coal blocks for it, Union Minister for Power Piyush Goyal announced last month. “We want that the electricity requirement of the State is met by production here itself”, he said.

This news has brought new hope for the inhabitants of a non-descript village, Bhagwatipur, in the remote Sitamarhi district of the Bihar. For the villagers, electricity is non-existent; many have never seen a filament shining in their village. When the entire nation is celebrating India's Mars Orbiter mission, this village finds no space for basic development. The concept of India becoming a ‘superpower’ is a myth for them. The reasons are obvious.

Shamsa Begum, who has spent her entire life within the confines of this village, says she knows nothing about electricity. Those who have watched the Shah Rukh Khan starrer Swades would be able to relate to Shamsa Begum's dilemma.

This sorry state of affairs certainly trashes all  tall claims of the then Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who had promised electricity to every village in Bihar by 2015. His party, incidentally, is still in power.

State Energy Minister Vijendra Prasad Yadav has also promised that power supply in Bihar would be increased from the current 3,000 MW to 5,500 MW. Undoubtedly, recent happenings like the commercial launch of the 660 MW unit IV of Barh Super Thermal Power Plant, the inauguration of the commercial operation of the second 110 MW unit of the first phase of Kanti Thermal Power Station in Muzaffarpur district, efforts to get approval for 132 MW hydel project at Baghmara in Supaul district, all reflect good intentions but the residents of Bhagwatipur expect action. Many generations have spent their life without electricity.

In such a situation, parents are forced to send their children away for education and so that they can get a relatively productive life in the city. Others, leave in search of livelihood. Shekh Sahab's son, employed overseas, amuses the entire village with stories of development he has become a part of.

Basic amenities like education and health are severely affected. However, despite hardship, residents have decided not to give up hope and they are leaving no stone unturned in their effort to bring electricity to their village. Mohammad Salimuddin, a Class 12 student said that the villagers have visited the electricity office umpteen times. They have even submitted an application signed by a 100 and 50 villagers. They were promised that survey work would begin in a fortnight. But those 15 days have never appeared on the calendar. The villagers keep visiting the electricity office, only to return without meeting the assistant electrical engineer. He could not be contacted on the phone either.

On the other hand, the Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojana's website claims that electrification of this village is under process. This happens only in India! Bhagwatipur is not the only village with such a grim situation with regards to electricity. Many villages in Bihar share the same grief. Where there is no sign of electricity, some are lucky to at least have poles and wires in their village. However, no electricity has ever touched these poles or wires.

Village Bhutha, situated next to Bhagwatipur, is a perfect example of such a situation. It has the infrastructure for electricity; their transformer that had stopped working five years ago has not been replaced yet. Villagers complaint that the transformer has not been replaced or repaired after successive complaints.

An engineering student pursuing higher studies away from his village rues that once he enters the village, his life goes back to the dark age. His laptop and mobile phone are rendered useless and he loses contact with everyone outside the village. Undoubtedly, this affects his education.

With our leaders promoting Digital India campaign at a global level; such realities juxtapose the claims of India moving forward. As far as the case of Bhagwatpuri and other villages in Sitamarhi is concerned, they are still like the mythological tales of the Treta Yug that Sitamarhi is famous for.

Villagers claim that it is not impossible to bring electricity to this part of Bihar and blame it on the negligent attitude of the administration. Most interestingly, the villagers hint that if the flood water coming from Nepal, also the reason behind the annual floods that devastate the region's economy, is used to produce electricity, not only Bhagwatipur but the whole of Bihar would brighten up.

(The writer is currently pursuing her masters in mass communication from Bihar)

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