‘This year’s festive season is going to be a very special one’
“Really? Why so?”
‘Well! Our village would be illuminated for the first time. We have a village Garba function at nine tonight with a light and sound arrangement. Our children are very excited. They have never known this joy.’’
Speaking to the headman of a remote habitation situated about 50 KMs from the town area; we could not help but notice the discernable sense of satisfaction as he showed us the Pandal decorated with cherry lights and an ebullient group of children practicing dance steps around it. Bereft of little joys and comforts of life, electrification under the Saubhagya scheme has not just installed light bulbs in homes but is improving lives in ways you and I cannot even imagine.
We took up a week long research trip to several villages of Madhya Pradesh to assess the on ground impact of Saubhagya Yojana. However, we soon realized that we would take home much more than just primary data; we would find answers much more profound than the defined research questions, beneficiary surveys would not just be a simple interaction but stealing moments from their lives and experience them first hand.
The central government scheme – Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojana (SAUBHAGYA), with the basic mandate of universal electrification, stands unique with its criteria of ‘free electric connection for each and every household’. The scheme has been able to cover every household; be it an unelectrified revenue villages in forests or hills, in an informal habitation miles away from villages, or even if it’s a solitary household in the middle of the jungle, electricity has reached everyone and is impacting lives in different ways. What sets it apart is this very fact, its not common to see one pole erected for one house in the middle of nowhere! It is also important to point out that some of the villages would never have been covered under any scheme owing to their topographical and secluded locations.
For ages they had adjusted to a life where day ends at sundown, when either they could make do with barely luminescent kerosene lamp or burn firewood, costing time, money, environment and a whole lot of inconvenience. Electrification has now added hours to their daily lives and the impact is most significant in the lives of women and children. For instance women now reschedule their work throughout the day, leaving them more time and space to pace out their lives, take up income generating activities, find time for rest and socialization. Needless to say, electrification has had a significant impact on education, with children studying extra hours in the evening and at dawn time.
For tribal communities living in remotest villages on western and eastern peripheries of Madhya Pradesh, some of them in areas inaccessible by road, electrification has proved to be a trigger to their mainstreaming. For someone who had to travel at least 7 hours a day just to charge their mobiles, or carry a television set to the nearest market area every night to watch movies or stay up all night to guard their homes from wild animals, lighting has indeed been a game changer. With infrastructure in the villages, people are aspiring for more by accentuating their income through or have better irrigation facilities for their farms for increased productivity.
Speaking to the people we realized that there was an urge to grow and know more, to look beyond their tedious schedules of daily subsistence, which is now taking shape with electrification. These are just a few of the many beautiful insights gathered during our field trip. There are many more dimensions of this impact and inspiring stories of Saubhagya beneficiaries coming up in our detailed report. Stay tuned for an insightful journey into homes electrified for the first time, into families gearing up for a change that is round the corner!
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