09/27/2017, 17.32
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Prime Minister Modi wants to bring electricity to every Indian by 2018

Dubbed ‘Saubhagya’, the scheme will cost US$ 2.5 billion and cover 40 million households, replacing kerosene lamps. At present, some 300 million Indians are without electricity. The plan is a bet ahead of the 2019 elections.

New Delhi (AsiaNews/Agencies) – India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi has launched a 16 billion-rupee scheme (US$ 2.5bn) to electrify all households by December 2018.

Dubbed ‘Saubhagya’, the plan will be largely funded by the federal government, and cover more than 40 million families in rural and urban India.

About 300 million of India's 1.3 billion people are not connected to the electricity distribution grid, and still rely on lamps fuelled by kerosene, which are a big health and environmental hazard.

The government’s modernisation is included in the 2017-2018 federal budget, and will bring "a monumental change in the lives of the poor", the PTI news agency quoted Mr Modi as saying on Monday.

New Delhi had launched an electrification programme in July 2015, under which thousands of villages were supposed to be connected to the grid. But unlike the earlier scheme, the Saubhagya initiative targets individual households rather than villages.

This is because a village is declared as electrified if 10 per cent of households, schools, health centres and government offices have access to electricity. Without this, power lines cannot be established.

With the new programme, the 3,000 villages still waiting for power supply should get it. The 2015 promise had targeted 18,452 villages.

The plan will be funded by a mix of federal government grants, investment by state utilities and loans.

For some experts, the scheme will give new impetus to the Indian economy, whose growth dropped to 5.7 per cent in the last quarter.

Many economists have linked the plan to the cancellation of more than 80 per cent of banknotes (demonetisation) in November last year and the introduction of a national goods and services tax in July.

Political analysts believe that Prime Minister Modi is betting on this to improve his chances in upcoming elections.

"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 Dr 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."

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