Officials scurry to realise Modi's claim on power link

Villagers will have to wait for one more month before Nagla Fatela is fully connected to the grid and the other formalities are completed
On ground zero, a flurry of activities has been taking place for the past two days. A contractor has begun installing meters, the state electricity department is inspecting the newly laid low-tension cables and a central government team is monitoring the overall work.

However, no one knows exactly when this village of nearly 3,000 people will finally get to see illuminated houses. The contractor, the state and the central officials tell Business Standard they were completely taken by surprise when Prime Minister Narendra Modi mentioned the name of this village during his Independence Day speech on August 15. The PM said, “It takes three hours to reach Nagla Fatela in Hathras but it took 70 years for electricity to reach here.”

The PM is partially correct in his statement as only the infrastructure has been laid in the village under the Centre's ambitious Deen Dayal Upadhyay Gram Jyoti Yojana scheme to electrify rural villages. ‘Last-mile connectivity’, which means connecting the houses with the electricity poles, is still missing.  The contractor is yet to install electricity meters in nearly 300 houses and without these, the state government will not supply electricity.

An official on the ground said on August 15, he was asked to be present in a different village and distribute sweets on account of Independence Day. He was stunned when the PM mentioned Nagla Fatela in his speech. “We had to rush to this village soon after and start the electricity current in the newly laid low-tension wires. This was the first time the electricity current was released in the wires. We did this to show the media that electricity has reached — media persons had arrived before us,” he related, requesting anonymity as he was not authorised to speak to journalists.

Nagla Fatela is among 1,282 villages in Hathras, chosen for electrification under the central scheme. The contract for electrification was awarded to Ghaziabad-based Accurate Transformers. Sanjay Singh, project manager with the company, says they've completed the infrastructure work in almost 150 villages and have asked the state government to inspect the work in 20-odd. The contractor is supposed to pay the inspection fee to the state electricity department before the inspection is undertaken and a certificate is issued.

“The inspector from the electricity department has surveyed Nagla Fatela and we are in constant touch with them,” he says, and adds that supply is still pending in those 20-odd villages for which the contractor has paid the inspection fee.

The villagers, however, are not pleased with the response. They say the same infrastructure was laid eight to ten months earlier and they were promised electricity during Diwali. “Nothing has moved since then,” says Sovran Singh Verma, a retired school teacher.

It seems the villagers will have to wait one more month before the village is finally connected to the grid and the other formalities are complete. Till then, they will have to illegally draw electricity from the agriculture feeders on the periphery of this village to light their homes. These feeders are supposed to be for operating tubewells in the fields, where villagers mostly grow vegetables and paddy. The latter have been illegally  drawing electricity for two decades, paying a fixed monthly fee to the state government to avoid prosecution.

There are also some who do not want electricity in this village, where rains have created numerous artificial puddles in the absence of a drainage system have become breeding grounds for mosquitoes. They fear being over-charged and think loose electricity wires will kill their cattle, the only source of  livelihood.

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