Mini grids prove boon for rural India during lockdown : Survey

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New Delhi: Effective Mini grid services in majority of Indian villages, especially in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, during lockdown have proved to be boon for the rural populace who availed the healthcare services and the Jan Dhan Yojana benefits uninterrupted, a survey by Rockefeller Foundation subsidiary Smart Power India said.

The findings of the survey titled ‘Impact of Post COVID-19 Lockdown’, was released today.

The survey was conducted in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar with a sample size of 391 consisting of households (30 percent), shops (48 percent ) and rural enterprises (22 percent ).

The survey analyzes the impact of post COVID-19 lockdown in the mini-grid villages and takes into consideration access to health care services, availability of livelihood options, Government support and the economic fallout of the lockdown on various mini-grid consumer segments.

Commenting on the survey findings Smart Power India CEO Jaideep Mukherji said, “As the survey points out, despite a major disruption in economic activities in mini-grid villages, availability of healthcare services and the Jan Dhan Yojana benefits have continued to be available for the rural population despite the lockdown. A major contributing factor here is the presence of mini grids in the villages. Mini-grids services are effectively driving rural India’s need for reliable electricity.”

Nearly 99 percent of the respondents said that they noticed positive change in social hygiene behavior in their respective communities. Additionally, the availability of healthcare professionals and quality of services witnessed a significant improvement during lockdown.

This further helped in fortifying the mini-grid villages against virus infection and educated people on the need for personal hygiene. Nearly 21 per cent of the respondents said that they have seen a positive increase in the availability of healthcare professionals and improvement in service quality.

Government’s welfare schemes such as Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana and the Jan Dhan accounts played a crucial role in easing the pain of the rural populations.

Close to 40 per cent of the respondents said that they availed the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana and the Jan Dhan Yojana during lockdown. However, despite the Government support, the mini-grid villages have been badly hit by the prolonged absence of economic activities, leaving very few options for livelihood.

Eighty percent of the respondents stated that lockdown left a major negative impact on their livelihood and are worried about the revival of their businesses in the near term. Mini-grid customer segments having shops and rural enterprises are the worst hit because of the closure or broken supply chains.

When asked about the power supply in the villages, 65 percent of the respondents said that they receive more than 16 hours of electricity supply every day. However, Uttar Pradesh witnessed a major drop in Government grid-connected electricity supply from 16 hours to 12 hours a day while Bihar reportedly saw a jump from 16 hours to 20 hours a day.

Mini grid services, on the other hand, fared better and provided reliable power supply to the villages despite the lockdown. Nearly 90 percent of the respondents said that they are satisfied with the mini grid power supply. 

“Access to affordable electricity is a key component of rural development. Reliable power supply especially in times of crisis like this will ensure seamless delivery of essential services such as healthcare, education (online learning) and internet connectivity”, added Mr. Mukherjee. 

Mini grid services play a key role in rural electrification efforts in areas that are not connected to the grid. The economic revival of rural India in the post pandemic world would require major push for reliable and affordable electricity supply.

J P Gupta for Smart Gov

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