Darkness under Lamp
Sonbhadra produces more than 3,000 MW of electricity, but local residents do not get it. People in 273 villages of the district have not seen electricity in their homes till date.
Yogesh Mishra from Lucknow
Now the darkness is troubling them. They have understood that the government would not listen to them without coming to the roads. This is the reason that the people demanding a small share of electricity being generated on their land have came to the roads with their bows and arrows. A total of 3012 MW electricity is being generated on their land since independence, but the irony is that it is not available to them. They are being cursed to live in darkness for the last 62 years. There are 501 revenue villages in the Sonbhadra district which is generating electricity for the whole country. If it is counted in terms of hamlets, it comes to 1444. If the electricity is provided to the whole population for 24 hours, only 90 lakh units of it is required. But even this much is not available to them. Figures of the electricity department tell that whole of the Sonbhadra district gets only 30 lakh units of electricity, which is only one third of the requirement. Even then the state government claims to be providing the electricity for 14 hours to the district headquarters, and for 10 hours to the villages and getting its own appreciation. But the truth if examined in depth about the electricity being available in the district is like telling a lie hundred times to prove it to be true. The reality is that it is made available to the villages for not more than six to eight hours and not more than ten hours at the district headquarters.
Government claims are also exposed by the electrification in the district. All the villages of Sonbhadra district have been completely electrified as per the government records, but reality is something else. It has reached up to the revenue villages of Sonbhadra, but the hamlets are still waiting for the electric wires to be installed; it must be noted that these hamlets are about three times the revenue villages in the district.
Not only this, although electric poles and wires might have been installed in Ambedkar villages as a part of electrification drive, they are yet to get electric current. District administration is praising itself for working a lot under Rajiv Gandhi Rural Electrification Project, but the truth is that Naxalism affected 273 hamlets have still not seen the light in their huts. These include big villages such as Myorpura and Jogindra. Not only this, electricity is far off from villages situated close to National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) plants. The people of the villages of Myorepur and Beejpur blocks within the range of 20-25 kilometres of Rihand Power Plant are without electricity till now. Not only this much, NTPC has started a campaign to provide light to the Jaraha and Chetwa villages through solar energy to compensate them for not providing with the electricity. The people here might have got the electricity through the campaign running through cooperative, but they are feeling as to why they do not have right over the electricity being generated on their land. And that too when it is mandatory while installing a power plant that the power produced from it will definitely be supplied to the neighbouring villages.
It must be noted that Sonbhadra has power plants both of State as well as Central Government. The area has 2,000 MW Rihand and Singrauli Projects under NTPC and 3260 MW Vindhyachal Project in the nearby area of Madhya Pradesh. The State Government's Anpara Power Plant has three units each of 230 MW along with two units each of 500 MW. Thus against the production capacity of 1,630 MW only 1,300 MW is being produced. The Obra Power Plant of the State Government has two units each of 50 MW, three units each of 94 MW and five units each of 200 MW, but only 500-600 MW of electricity is being produced against the production capacity of 1,382 MW. In addition to it, six units each of 50 MW in Pipri and three units each of 33 MW in Obra have been installed by Hydroelectric Corporation. It is a different issue that these plants are not being operated; these are operated whenever the grid fails. The power generated through Rihand and Singrauli plants goes to northern grid which electrifies Delhi, Haryana, Rajasthan, Punjab, Chandigarh, Jammu and Kashmir and Uttar Pradesh, whereas the power generated through the Vindhyachal Power Project goes to the western grid which lighten up the areas of Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, Goa and Daman and Diu. The people of Sonbhadra, which is producing electricity for other states of the country, have now came down to the road against the State and Central Governments. This struggle for electricity is not only limited to the villages and cities, but most of the professional people have also started participating in it. Few days back advocates of the region expressed their anger through a demonstration; same was the agenda of the people demanding for a separate Sonanchal state. Roshan Lal Yadav, All Sonanchal Students Union leader, is seeing this struggle, in terms of any other struggle, daily. The farmers have also started taking out the electric poles without wires, off their land. The anger of the farmers has more importance for the electricity for agricultural purpose rather than to lighten up their lives. The way the people are increasingly taking part in the struggle is clearly indicating that the problem if not solved within time, the Naxalites will not lose the use of this struggle. Not only this, the anger bursting on the roads can burst anytime over the government and the officials.
[Translated from the article published in Hindi daily Nayi Duniya on August 23, 2009]