‘Saubhagya’ of Getting Power After 30 Yrs: The Story of My Village
While villages may get connected, they may not retain that connection for a sustainable period.
In our nadiya kinare village school (school on the banks of a small river), we as kids would constantly discuss the dreadful, but imminent intrusion of electricity. The prospect of studying beyond 7 pm would scare us. Blissfully unaware of all that could happen in an electrified village, we were very happy with our own lantern and its desi variants.
We were in love with our dark age existence with accompanying stories of ghosts and evil spirits.
By the time electricity connection arrived in my village (Baisi in Bihar’s Supaul district) sometime in the early 1980s, I had already moved to a nearby mofussil town and had gotten used to electrified homes with bulbs and fans.
The only village-related memory (other than my pleasant interactions with grandparents, of course) of the period I have retained thus far is the unfortunate death of a relative due to electrocution.
The power connection came, stayed for few months, and then vanished only to reappear nearly three decades later. The reappearance happened only after singer Udit Narayan, a resident of the same village, made an appeal to state Chief Minister Nitish Kumar to get the village electrified.
To others, we would say hamare gaon mein bijli hai, tum to abhi bhi dark age mein ho (our village is electrified, you still live in the dark age).
We had poles without wires to back our boast. Then poles too vanished and the only way to justify our claim was the tried and tested argument of buzurgon se suna hai (heard from the elders).
For a while, my fellow villagers started feeling that they were the chosen ones. That feeling too quickly vanished as we got to know that many more villages had had the privilege of getting electrified on paper. Our village remained that way for years – powerless in reality and yet powerful on paper. I know of many villages in Bihar having had an identical experience.
When I heard the Prime Minister’s big announcement on Monday, I was forced to check some of the forgotten pages of my life. Are we going to have an altogether different experience this time? My heart says: yes, we are. The mind, however, foresees a similar exercise being repeated all over again.
The reason I remain sceptical is that while villages have discovered the value of electricity, villagers still are not in a position to afford power 24/7.
While they may be connected once, they may not retain that connection for a sustainable period.
So, instead of providing connections, can we do something to add to their financial muscle so that they start demanding connections? Wouldn’t that be a more sustainable model to pursue?
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