To meet 100% electrification target, villages in Chattisgarh’s Maoist zone were given solar lanterns. In April this year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that all villages in India had been electrified. In Chhattisgarh state, on paper, the three districts of Dantewada, Bijapur, and Sukma, hit by left-wing extremism, are 100 percent electrified. But in at least 80 villages across these districts, The Indian Express found, electricity means a 3-watt solar lantern.
Villagers complain that they can’t draw power from these solar lanterns but just the lights. The question arises that by only distributing these light emitting solar lanterns, can villages be tagged as 100% electrified?
Faulty distribution process
Ayaz Tamboli, currently the Collector of Bastar, says, “PDS shops, haat bazaar, and schools were used as points of distribution of these lanterns. Of the 3,000 lanterns that were ordered, 1,600 have been distributed.”
However, in this distribution process, there are gaps. While as per government records, 38 families have been distributed solar lanterns in Bodla Pusnar. Villagers say they have never seen one.
In Bastar, officials struggle to define the distribution of these lanterns as “electrification”. Sukma District Collector Jay Prakash Mourya says this could be counted as “partial electrification”. “Over time, when people see the benefits of light in their villages, more people will approach us automatically,” he says.
At the Tamodi ashram, those ‘benefits’ are all around. Gangaloor has electricity, the ashram has lights and fans, its playground can be illuminated at night. Some of the shops in the local bazaar have televisions and music systems that play Bollywood music. “Our village should have this too,” says a student.
“The lanterns we got are a little bigger but you can’t draw any connection from them. Just the light. Does that count as electricity?” he added.