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Powerless: 1 in 3 Schools & 1 in 4 Health Centres in India Have No Electricity

India's electrification policies have little or no focus on electrification of institutions like schools & clinics.

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Powerless: 1 in 3 Schools & 1 in 4 Health Centres in India Have No Electricity
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Although the share of households in India with access to electricity rose from 44% in 2001 to 96% in 2020, a whopping 37% of schools and 24 % of primary health facilities remained unelectrified in 2020.

For this to change, India will have to shift focus to more integrated policy making. As per a recent report by World Resource Institute (WRI), India, a programme on education will need to consider the electricity installation and maintenance requirements as a part of their budget.

The report, Integrating Electricity Priorities into Healthcare and Education in India: A Review of National and Subnational Policies, was launched on Friday, 26 November, in New Delhi.

"Electricity and education are considered to have a far-fetched relationship but our conversations need to move beyond installing a switchboard in a classroom to ensuring that it is also functional."
Kamal Gaur, Deputy Director – Education, Save the Children.

As per the report, India's strategies to alleviate poverty and inequality must align with actions to enhance healthcare, education, and socio-economic development -- something it cannot achieve without reliable electricity.

Talking about the important connection between electricity and education, Gaur said, "In my experience, RTE Act compliance is not more than 11-13%. Schools and anganwadi centres need to budget for maintenance along with installation to ensure sustained access."

The report stated that electricity can improve access to lighting and cooling of equipments, water and sanitation, and digital resources – all of which are likely to increase school attendance.

States with high school electrification rates have higher literacy rates.

Assam's literacy rate is 73 percent while Jharkhand's is 67 percent.

In Assam, 19.5 percent of all schools and 100 percent of government schools have electricity, while in Jharkhand this statistic is 15.1 percent for all schools and 93 percent for government schools.

As per the report, there are two major faults with India's electrification policies:

  • Firstly, a lack of focus on reliability. "Although India is close to achieving electricity access for all, its emphasis is on coverage rather than on reliability".

  • Secondly, India's electrification policies tend to focus on household electrification, with little or no emphasis on electrification of institutions such as schools and clinics.

As India sets itself on a journey to phase out coal, a substantial majority of her schools and primary health centres (PHC) continue to live in darkness, due to absence of electricity connections. The ones which do have electricity often don't have a safe and sustainable supply.

Going ahead, India's development, say experts, will try to ensure that it's focused towards the sustainable development goals (SDGs), and accommodative of India's clean energy transition goal.

These SDGsb, however, cannot be ensured till India has a consistent supply of electricity in all its schools, anganwadi centres, health centres and hospitals.

The report is based on a review of 127 national and state policies on healthcare, education, electricity, climate change, among others.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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