Posts Tagged ‘rural development’

Electrification in India: ‘Saubhagya’ scheme

October 5th, 2017 No comments

Recently, the central government launched the Pradhan Mantri Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojana (or Saubhagya).[i],[ii]  The scheme seeks to ensure universal household electrification (in both rural and urban areas) by providing last mile connectivity.  The scheme is expected to cover three crore households.  Note that currently about four crore households are un-electrified.  A rural electrification scheme has also been under implementation since 2005.  In light of this, we discuss the current situation of, and key issues related to rural electrification in the country.

Regulatory and policy framework

Under the Electricity Act, 2003, the central and state governments have the joint responsibility of providing electricity to rural areas.  The 2003 Act also mandates that the central government should, in consultation with the state governments, provide for a national policy on (i) stand-alone power systems for rural areas (systems that are not connected to the electricity grid), and (ii) electrification and local distribution in rural areas.  Consequently, the Rural Electrification Policy was notified in August 2006.[iii]

The Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojana (RGGVY), launched in 2005, was the first scheme on rural electrification.  In December 2014, Ministry of Power launched the Deendayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana (DDUGJY), which subsumed the RGGVY.[iv]  Components of DDUGJY include: (i) separation of agricultural and non-agricultural electricity feeders to improve supply for consumers in rural areas, (ii) improving sub-transmission and distribution infrastructure in rural areas, and (iii) rural electrification by carrying forward targets specified under the RGGVY.

The total financial outlay for DDUGJY over the implementation period (until 2021-22) is Rs 82,300 crore which includes budgetary support of Rs 68,900 crore.  The central government provides 60% of the project cost as grant, the state power distribution companies (discoms) raise 10% of the funds, and 30% is borrowed from financial institutions and banks.

Status of rural electrification

As of August 2017, about 1% of the villages in India remain un-electrified (3,146 villages).  However, with regard to households, around 23% (4.1 crore households) are yet to be electrified.  Table 1 at the end of this post shows the status of rural electrification across all states.

Issues with rural electrification

Definition of an electrified village

An electrified village is defined as one that has the following: (i) provision of basic infrastructure such as distribution transformers and lines in the inhabited locality, (ii) provision of electricity in public places like schools, panchayat office, health centers, dispensaries, and community centers, and (iii) at least 10% of the total number of households in the village are electrified.[iv]

Therefore, a village is considered to be electrified if 10% of the total number of households in the village have been electrified.  This is apart from the basic infrastructure and electrification of certain public centers in the village.  The Standing Committee on Energy (2013) had observed that according to this definition, a village would be called electrified even if up to 90% of households in it do not have an electricity connection.[v]  It also noted that the infrastructure being provided under the scheme is highly inadequate, unreliable and unsustainable.  The Committee recommended that the actual electrification requirement of villages must be assessed, and it should be ensured that the state discoms provide electricity to the remaining households in the village.

Supply of electricity

The Standing Committee had also noted that while the rural electrification scheme looks at creating infrastructure, the actual supply of electricity to households rests with the state discoms.[v]  These discoms are already facing huge financial losses and hence are unable to supply electricity to the villages.  Discoms continue to supply subsidised power to agricultural and residential consumers, resulting in revenue losses.  Further, the average technical and commercial losses (theft and pilferage of electricity) (AT&C losses) are at around 25%.  While the Ujjwal Discom Assurance Yojana (UDAY) has eased off some of the financial losses of the discoms, it remains to be seen whether discoms are able to reduce the cost-tariff gap and AT&C losses in the future.

It has been recommended that generation capacity should be augmented so that states can meet the additional demand under the rural electrification schemes. Further, the assistance to financially weaker states should be increased so that they can better implement the scheme.[v]

Electricity to below poverty line (BPL) households

Under the rural electrification scheme, the cost for providing free electricity connection per BPL household is Rs 3,000.  It has been observed that this cost per household may be inadequate.[v]  Due to the low cost, the quantity and the quality of work has been getting compromised leading to poor implementation of the scheme.  It has been recommended that the Ministry should revisit the cost provided under the scheme.[v]

The new electrification scheme: Pradhan Mantri Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojana (or Saubhagya)

The new scheme, Saubhagya, seeks to ensure universal household electrification, that is, in both rural and urban areas.  Under Saubhagya, beneficiaries will be identified using the Socio Economic and Caste Census (SECC) 2011 data.  The identified poor households will get free electricity connections.  Other households not covered under the SECC, will be provided electricity connections at a cost of Rs 500.  This amount will be collected by the electricity distribution companies in 10 instalments.

The total outlay of the scheme will be Rs 16,320 crore, of which the central government will provide Rs 12,320 crore.  The outlay for the rural households will be Rs 14,025 crore, of which the centre will provide Rs 10,588 crore.  For urban households the outlay will be Rs 2,295 crore of which the centre will provide Rs. 1,733 crore.

The state discoms will execute the electrification works through contractors or other suitable agencies.  Information technology (mobile apps, web portals) will be used to organise camps in villages to identify beneficiaries.  In order to accelerate the process, applications for electricity connections will be completed on the spot.

So far the focus of electrification schemes has been on rural areas, where typically last mile connectivity has been difficult to provide.  Saubhagya extends the ambit of electrification projects to urban areas as well.  While DDUGJY has focused on the village as the principal unit to measure electrification, the new scheme shifts the targets to household electrification.  While the target for ensuring electricity connection in each household will be a significant step towards ensuring 24×7 power, the question of continuous and quality supply to these households will still rest on the ability of the discoms to provide electricity.  Further, while the scheme provides for free connections, the ability of these households to pay for the electricity they consume may be a concern.

Table 1: Status of rural electrification across states (as of August 2017)

Fig 1 edit

* all villages in Telangana were declared electrified before the bifurcation of the state.
Sources:  Ministry of Power; PRS.


[i] “PM launches Pradhan Mantri Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojana “Saubhagya””, Press Information Bureau, Ministry of Power, September 25, 2017.

[ii] “FAQs on Pradhan Mantri Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojana “Saubhagya””, Press Information Bureau, Ministry of Power, September 27, 2017.

[iii].  Rural Electrification Policy, Ministry of Power, August 23, 2006,

[iv].  “Office memorandum: Deendayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana”, Ministry of Power, December 3, 2014,

[v].  “41st Report: Implementation of Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojana”, Standing Committee on Energy, December 13, 2013,

Swachh Bharat Mission (Gramin)

January 2nd, 2015 7 comments

Earlier this month, guidelines for the Swachh Bharat Mission (Gramin) were released by the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation.  Key features of the Swachh Bharat Mission (Gramin), as outlined in the guidelines, are detailed below.  In addition, a brief overview of sanitation levels in the country is provided, along with major schemes of the central government to improve rural sanitation.

The Swachh Bharat Mission, launched in October 2014, consists of two sub-missions – the Swachh Bharat Mission (Gramin) (SBM-G), which will be implemented in rural areas, and the Swachh Bharat Mission (Urban), which will be implemented in urban areas.  SBM-G seeks to eliminate open defecation in rural areas by 2019 through improving access to sanitation.  It also seeks to generate awareness to motivate communities to adopt sustainable sanitation practices, and encourage the use of appropriate technologies for sanitation.

I. Context

Data from the last three Census’, in Table 1, shows that while there has been some improvement in the number of households with toilets; this number remains low in the country, especially in rural areas.

Table 1:  Percentage of households with toilets (national)

Year Rural Urban Total
1991 9% 64% 24%
2001 22% 74% 36%
2011 31% 81% 47%

In addition, there is significant variation across states in terms of availability of household toilets in rural areas, as shown in Table 2.  Table 2 also shows the change in percentage of rural households with toilets from 2001 to 2011.  It is evident that the pace of this change has varied across states over the decade.

Table 2: Percentage of rural households with toilets




% Change

Andhra Pradesh




Arunachal Pradesh




























Himachal Pradesh




Jammu and Kashmir
















Madhya Pradesh








































Tamil Nadu








Uttar Pradesh








West Bengal




All India




II. Major schemes of the central government to improve rural sanitation

The central government has been implementing schemes to improve access to sanitation in rural areas from the Ist Five Year Plan (1951-56) onwards.  Major schemes of the central government dealing with rural sanitation are outlined below.

Central Rural Sanitation Programme (1986): The Central Rural Sanitation Programme was one of the first schemes of the central government which focussed solely on rural sanitation.  The programme sought to construct household toilets, construct sanitary complexes for women, establish sanitary marts, and ensure solid and liquid waste management.
Total Sanitation Campaign (1999): The Total Sanitation Campaign was launched in 1999 with a greater focus on Information, Education and Communication (IEC) activities in order to make the creation of sanitation facilities demand driven rather than supply driven. Key components of the Total Sanitation Campaign included: (i) financial assistance to rural families below the poverty line for the construction of household toilets, (ii) construction of community sanitary complexes, (iii) construction of toilets in government schools and aganwadis, (iv) funds for IEC activities, (v) assistance to rural sanitary marts, and (vi) solid and liquid waste management.
Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan (2012): In 2012, the Total Sanitation Campaign was replaced by the Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan (NBA), which also focused on the previous elements.  According to the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, the key shifts in NBA were: (i) a greater focus on coverage for the whole community instead of a focus on individual houses, (ii) the inclusion of certain households which were above the poverty line, and (iii) more funds for IEC activities, with 15% of funds at the district level earmarked for IEC.
Swachh Bharat Mission (Gramin) (2014): Earlier this year, in October, NBA was replaced by Swachh Bharat Mission (Gramin) (SBM-G) which is a sub-mission under Swachh Bharat Mission.  SBM-G also includes the key components of the earlier sanitation schemes such as the funding for the construction of individual household toilets, construction of community sanitary complexes, waste management, and IEC. Key features of SBM-G, and major departures from earlier sanitation schemes, are outlined in the next section.

III. Guidelines for Swachh Bharat Mission (Gramin)

The guidelines for SBM-G, released earlier this month, outline the strategy to be adopted for its implementation, funding, and monitoring.

Objectives: Key objectives of SBM-G include: (i) improving the quality of life in rural areas through promoting cleanliness and eliminating open defecation by 2019, (ii) motivating communities and panchayati raj institutions to adopt sustainable sanitation practices, (iii) encouraging appropriate technologies for sustainable sanitation, and (iv) developing community managed solid and liquid waste management systems.

Institutional framework: While NBA had a four tier implementation mechanism at the state, district, village, and block level, an additional tier has been added for SBM-G, at the national level.  Thus, the implementation mechanisms at the five levels will consist of: (i) National Swachh Bharat Mission (Gramin), (ii) State Swachh Bharat Mission (Gramin), (iii) District Swachh Bharat Mission (Gramin), (iv) Block Programme Management Unit, and (v) Gram Panchayat/Village and Water Sanitation Committee.  At the Gram Panchayat level, Swachhta Doots may be hired to assist with activities such as identification of beneficiaries, IEC, and maintenance of records.

Planning: As was done under NBA, each state must prepare an Annual State Implementation Plan.  Gram Panchayats must prepare implementation plans, which will be consolidated into Block Implementation Plans.  These Block Implementation Plans will further be consolidated into District Implementation Plans.  Finally, District Implementation Plans will be consolidated in a State Implementation Plan by the State Swachh Bharat Mission (Gramin).

A Plan Approval Committee in Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation will review the State Implementation Plans.  The final State Implementation Plan will be prepared by states based on the allocation of funds, and then approved by National Scheme Sanctioning Committee of the Ministry.

Funding: Funding for SBM-G will be through budgetary allocations of the central and state governments, the Swachh Bharat Kosh, and multilateral agencies.  The Swachh Bharat Kosh has been established to collect funds from non-governmental sources.  Table 3, below, details the fund sharing pattern for SBM-G between the central and state government, as provided for in the SBM-G guidelines.

Table 3: Funding for SBM-G across components

Component Centre State Beneficiary Amount as a % of SBM-G outlay
IEC, start-up activities, etc 75% 25% 8%
Revolving fund 80% 20% Up to 5%
Construction of household toilets 75%(Rs 9000)90% for J&K, NE states, special category states 25%(Rs 3000)10% for J&K, NE states, special category states Amount required for full coverage
Community sanitary complexes 60% 30% 10% Amount required for full coverage
Solid/Liquid Waste Management 75% 25% Amount required within limits permitted
Administrative charges 75% 25% Up to 2% of the project cost

One of the changes from NBA, in terms of funding, is that funds for IEC will be up to 8% of the total outlay under SBM-G, as opposed to up to 15% (calculated at the district level) under NBA.  Secondly, the amount provided for the construction of household toilets has increased from Rs 10,000 to Rs 12,000.  Thirdly, while earlier funding for household toilets was partly through NBA and partly though the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS), the provision for MGNREGS funding has been done away with under SBM-G.  This implies that the central government’s share will be met entirely through SBM-G.

Implementation: The key components of the implementation of SBM-G will include: (i) start up activities including preparation of state plans, (ii) IEC activities, (iii) capacity building of functionaries, (iv) construction of household toilets, (v) construction of community sanitary complexes, (vi) a revolving fund at the district level to assist Self Help Groups and others in providing cheap finance to their members (vii) funds for rural sanitary marts, where materials for the construction of toilets, etc., may be purchased, and (viii) funds for solid and liquid waste management.

Under SBM-G, construction of toilets in government schools and aganwadis will be done by the Ministry of Human Resource Development and Ministry of Women and Child Development, respectively.  Previously, the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation was responsible for this.

Monitoring: Swachh Bharat Missions (Gramin) at the national, state, and district levels will each have monitoring units.  Annual monitoring will be done at the national level by third party independent agencies.  In addition, concurrent monitoring will be done, ideally at the community level, through the use of Information and Communications Technology.

More information on SBM-G is available in the SBM-G guidelines, here.


Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act: Review of implementation

September 23rd, 2013 11 comments

In the recently concluded Monsoon Session of Parliament , the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Rural Development released a report on the implementation of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Development Act, 2005 (MGNREGA).  This blog provides a brief introduction to the key provisions of MGNREGA , followed by an overview of the major findings and recommendations of the Standing Committee.

I. MGNREGA: A brief introduction

A. Objectives: MGNREGA, which is the largest work guarantee programme in the world, was enacted in 2005 with the primary objective of guaranteeing 100 days of wage employment per year to rural households.  Secondly, it aims at addressing causes of chronic poverty through the ‘works’ (projects) that are undertaken, and thus ensuring sustainable development.  Finally, there is an emphasis on strengthening the process of decentralisation through giving a significant role to Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) in planning and implementing these works.

B. Key features:

  • Legal right to work: Unlike earlier employment guarantee schemes, the Act provides a legal right to employment for adult members of rural households.  At least one third beneficiaries have to be women.  Wages must be paid according to the wages specified for agricultural labourers in the state under the  Minimum Wages Act, 1948, unless the central government notifies a wage rate (this should not be less than Rs 60 per day).  At present, wage rates are determined by the central government but vary across states, ranging from Rs 135 per day to Rs 214 per day.
  • Time bound guarantee of work and unemployment allowance: Employment must be provided with 15 days of being demanded failing which an ‘unemployment allowance’ must be given.
  • Decentralised planning: Gram sabhas must recommend the works that are to be undertaken and at least 50% of the works must be executed by them.  PRIs are primarily responsible for planning, implementation and monitoring of the works that are undertaken.
  • Work site facilities: All work sites should have facilities such as crèches, drinking water and first aid.
  • Transparency and accountability: There are provisions for proactive disclosure through wall writings, citizen information boards, Management Information Systems and social audits.  Social audits are conducted by gram sabhas to enable the community to monitor the implementation of the scheme.
  • Funding:  Funding is shared between the centre and the states.  There are three major items of expenditure – wages (for unskilled, semi-skilled and skilled labour), material and administrative costs.  The central government bears 100% of the cost of unskilled labour, 75% of the cost of semi-skilled and skilled labour, 75% of the cost of materials and 6% of the administrative costs.

MGNREGA was implemented in phases, starting from February 2006, and at present it covers all districts of the country with the exception of those that have a 100% urban population.  The Act provides a list of works that can be undertaken to generate employment related to water conservation, drought proofing, land development, and flood control and protection works.  Table 1 provides information regarding employment generation and expenditure under MGNREGA.

Table 1: MGNREGA: Key indicators


Number of households provided employment (in crore)

Average number of person days of work per household

Total Expenditure (in lakh)





























Source: Standing Committee on Rural Development; PRS. Note: *Provisional ** As on 31.01.2013

II. Findings and Recommendations of the Standing Committee on Rural Development

A. Achievements: The Standing Committee highlighted several achievements of MGNREGA in the seven years of its implementation, especially:

  • Ensuring livelihood for people in rural areas.
  • Large scale participation of women, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (SCs/STs) and other traditionally marginalised sections of society.  SCs/STs account for 51% of the total person-days generated and women account for 47% of the total person-days generated.
  • Increasing the wage rate in rural areas and strengthening the rural economy through the creation of infrastructure assets.
  • Facilitating sustainable development, and
  • Strengthening PRIs by involving them in the planning and monitoring of the scheme.

B. Challenges: However, the Committee found several issues with the implementation of the scheme. As Table 1 (above) shows, the average number of days of employment provided to households has been lower than the mandated 100 days, and has been decreasing since 2010-11.

Key issues that the Committee raised include

  • Fabrication of job cards: While as many as 12.5 crore households have been issued job cards out of an estimated 13.8 crore rural households ( as per the 2001 census), there are several issues related to existence of fake job cards, inclusion of fictitious names, missing entries and delays in making entries in job cards.
  • Delay in payment of wages: Most states have failed to disburse wages within 15 days as mandated by MGNREGA.  In addition, workers are not compensated for a delay in payment of wages.
  • Non payment of unemployment allowances: Most states do not pay an unemployment allowance when work is not given on demand.  The non-issuance of dated receipts of demanded work prevents workers from claiming an unemployment allowance.
  • Large number of incomplete works: There has been a delay in the completion of works under MGNREGA and inspection of projects has been irregular.  Implementing agencies were able to complete only 98 lakh works out of 296 lakh works.  As Table 2 shows, a large percentage of works remain incomplete under MGNREGA and the work completion rate appears to be decreasing in recent years.

Table 2: Work completion rate


Work completion rate (%)















Total                  33.22

Source: Standing Committee on Rural Development. Note: * As on 30.01.2013

  • Other key challenges include poor quality of assets created, several instances of corruption in the implementation of MGNREGA, and insufficient involvement of PRIs.

C. Recommendations: The Committee made the following recommendations, based on its findings:

  • Regulation of job cards: Offences such as not recording employment related information in job cards and unlawful possession of job cards with elected PRI representatives and MGNREGA functionaries should be made punishable under the Act.
  • Participation of women: Since the income of female workers typically raises the standard of living of their households to a greater extent than their male counterparts, the participation of women must be increased through raising awareness about MGNREGA.
  • Participation of people with disabilities: Special works (projects) must be identified for people with disabilities; and  special job cards must be issued and personnel must be employed to ensure their participation.
  • Utilisation of funds:  The Committee found that a large amount of funds allocated for MGNREGA have remained unutilised.  For example, in 2010-11, 27.31% of the funds remained unutilised.  The Committee recommends that the Department of Rural Development should analyse reasons for poor utilisation of funds and take steps to improve the same.  In addition, it should initiate action against officers found guilty of misappropriating funds under MGNREGA.
  • Context specific projects and convergence: Since states are at various stages of socio-economic development, they have varied requirements for development.  Therefore, state governments should be allowed to undertake works that are pertinent to their context.  There should be more emphasis on skilled and semi-skilled work under MGNREGA.  In addition, the Committee recommends a greater emphasis on convergence with other schemes such as the National Rural Livelihoods Mission, National Rural Health Mission, etc.
  • Payment of unemployment allowance: Dated receipts for demanded work should be issued so that workers can claim unemployment allowance.  Funds for unemployment allowance should be met by the central government.
  • Regular monitoring: National Level Monitors (NLMs) are deployed by the Ministry of Rural Development for regular and special monitoring of MGNREGA and to enquire into complaints regarding mis-utilisation of funds, etc.  The Committee recommends that the frequency of monitoring by NLMs should increase and appropriate measures should be taken by states based on their recommendations.  Additionally, social audits must mandatorily be held every six months.  The Committee observes that the performance of MGNREGA is better in states with effective social audit mechanisms.
  • Training of functionaries: Training and capacity building of elected representatives and other functionaries of PRIs must be done regularly as it will facilitate their involvement in the implementation of MGNREGA.


Guesstimating Access to Food Security

April 7th, 2010 1 comment

The empowered group of ministers (EGoM) met recently to review the draft food security bill. Two issues have been reported to have gained prominence in their discussions – the exact number of poor families that are likely to be beneficiaries under the Food Security Act and reforming of the targeted public distribution system.

On the issue of estimating poverty, it is reported that the Planning Commission has been asked to submit a report in three weeks on the number of  (BPL) families that are likely to be legally entitled to food under the said Act.

The Minister of Agriculture is reported to have said “It is up to them [Planning Commission] whether they base it [BPL list] on the Tendulkar Committee report or the earlier N.C. Saxena panel or the Wadhwa committee.”

The estimation of poor persons in India involves two broad steps:

(i) fixing a threshold or poverty line that establishes poverty, and

(ii) counting the number of people below this line.

Estimating these numbers is a contentious issue – ridden by debates around norms and parameters for defining poverty, methodology to estimate poverty, etc.

The Planning Commission estimates the percentage and number of BPL persons separately in rural and urban areas from a large sample survey conducted by the National Sample Survey Organization (NSSO) which operates under the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation.

In addition various government social sector schemes are targeted specifically at the poor and require the government to identify BPL beneficiaries.  For this purpose the Ministry of Rural Development designs a BPL census and that is conducted by the States/UTs.  The BPL census website gives data on BPL households for 2002 based on the poverty estimates for 1999-2000, by state, district and block.

The targeted public distribution system was recently subjected to scrutiny by a Supreme Court appointed vigilance committee headed by Justice D P Wadhwa. Amongst many issues, the committee reported that “the PDS is inefficient and corrupt.  There is diversion and black-marketing of PDS food grain in large scale.  Subsidized PDS food grain does not reach the poor who desperately need the same.  These poor people never get the PDS food grain in proper quantity and quality.”

The two issues highlighted here are important to ensure that the proposed legislation on food security is not a leaky bucket in the making.   As the draft food security bill is not in the public domain it is difficult to comment on how the government is thinking on length and breadth of issues that govern giving access to food security.

Discussion on budgets and functioning of Ministries

March 18th, 2010 3 comments

Parliament has announced the ministries whose Demands for Grants will be discussed in detail in the Lok Sabha (after April 12 when Parliament reconvenes).  They are:


Rural Development

Tribal Affairs

Water Resources

External Affairs

Road Transport and Highways

Together these ministries have asked Parliament for a total of  Rs 289,938 crore (Rs 175,772 crore for Defence alone) – which is slightly over a quarter of the total expenditure budgeted by the Central Government for 2010-11.

The Rajya Sabha does not discuss demands for grants but has announced a list of ministries whose functioning it will review after the recess.  They are:

Home Affairs

Tribal Affairs



Chemicals and Fertilizers

Petroleum and Natural Gas

Youth affairs and Sports

Women and Child Development

Consumer affairs, Food and Public Distribution

Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation