In a 2.5 billion dollar initiative, Prime Minister Modi introduced the Saubhagya scheme to bring power to 300 million living without electricity. Currently, 25% of India’s population live without electricity, most of whom are poor and live in rural areas. Modi’s scheme prioritizes the poor, given their lack of connection to India’s power grid.
In 2015, the government presented an initiative that connected towns to the grid, claiming that it electrified nearly all of India’s population. Yet this initiative considered a town “on the grid” as long as 10% of buildings had electricity. As a result, many have used kerosene as a source of power. Kerosene is not only a major health risk, but environmentally degrading, countering India’s climate pledge to reduce emissions by 2030. The Saubhagya scheme targets individual households, planning for 40 million people to have electricity by December 2018.
While the Saubhagya scheme primarily targets the poor, it also supports solar companies, many of which have fallen into debt. The scheme aims to build the industry by providing solar panels for unelectrified houses in rural areas. Since some of these homes are so remotely located, they are difficult to connect to a power grid. Solar panels supply an efficient and independent method of electricity as well as contributing to India’s sustainability goals.
Yet despite the advantages of the Saubhagya scheme, it is ambitious for India’s current economy. Taxes and the removal of rupees have severely impacted India’s wealth, causing the GDP to fall the lowest since the 2014 election. Among the most impacted are the poor, who struggle to pay India’s taxes. The Saubhagya scheme would provide jobs for the installation of the necessary equipment to receive electricity. However, the power itself is supplied by the government, and does not ensure that all homes will have electricity at all times. With a country as large as India, government officials will find it difficult to ensure that everyone consistently has power.
Furthermore, the initiative correlates with India’s election process. The project is set to be finished in December 2018, a date in close proximity to the 2019 elections. Critics of the scheme have questioned why the government hasn’t proposed a solution earlier, when a quarter of India’s population lives without electricity.
The Saubhagya scheme will challenge India’s economy, creating an impact on all social levels. Yet it is a solution that will bring electricity to millions, not only connecting them to India’s power grid, but providing a healthier and more sustainable source of light.