There has been much ado over a little known village of Hathras district of Western Uttar Pradesh, Nagla Fatela. The Prime Minister in his Independence Day speech, mentioned it as one of the 10,000 odd villages that have been electrified under the much-celebrated rural electrification drive of the NDA government. Enterprising media outlets made a visit to the village to verify the claims and all hell broke loose since then.
“The village was already electrified”; “the village was not electrified”; “infrastructure was not created”; “only infrastructure was created and power was not provided”; “the scheme is a waste” etc. – these were some of the discussions on social media based on news reports. In this melee, the real villain of the piece – the Samajwadi Party led State Government was conveniently forgotten, both by partisan media outlets looking to break the Modi headwind in Uttar Pradesh and online activists who specialise in trolling political leaders.
The Modi government came to power with the burden of extraordinary expectations. That Power (electricity) is a concurrent subject under the Constitution is another reality check. That the Samajwadi Party cannot even be remotely associated with the loosest definition of governance is another widely accepted fact, given their poor track-record. So any Central Government scheme, must work through the filter of a State’s delivery mechanism and all the baggage associated with it. Add to this the score of 73 MPs of NDA from Uttar Pradesh and there is an atmosphere not exactly conducive for the implementation of Central schemes.
So what happened in Nagla Fatela? Under the Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana (DDUGJY), through which, the rural electrification drive is being pursued, the Central Government allots funds on the basis of State Government reports. Being a concurrent subject the Centre cannot provide electricity or infrastructure on its own. Nor is it recommended that the Centre try to reach the 6-lakh odd villages of the country. Besides the federal structure argument, it is a recipe for disaster in practical terms of implementation.
As per documents released by the Central Government, the UP State Government added Nagla Fatela village to a list of unelectrified villages on the basis of which, funds would be allocated. A high-power committee comprising not only the State’s senior most electricity department authorities but also the senior most official of Uttar Pradesh, the Chief Secretary, sent this list. They claimed that this list was prepared after field surveys.
Worse, the State Government themselves claimed that this village had zero houses electrified and that the transmission line had zero load. They also proposed the power infrastructure that would be built. Under the terms of DDUGJY, this was a fit case for electrification.
On the basis of this data, the Central government released funds and work was carried out. On 30th October 2015, the State DISCOM verified that it had completed the work.
The Infrastructure Verification Document provides details of the power infrastructure (transformers, poles, connections etc.). The central government released details of the electrification work of the village on its GARV app to ensure that the public was kept in the loop.
However, V S Gangwar, Chief Engineer at DVVNL’s Aligarh division claimed to the media that the village had been electrified since 1985! So how can DVVNL first say that there, in writing, that the village was not electrified, and later claim that it was electrified since 1985?
The answer is simply this: Around 150 houses have power since 1985 through the transformer meant for tubewells, via illegal “katia” connections. This has been admitted by the same Mr Gangwar above. So is a DVVNL staffer admitting that people are drawing illegal connections, from tubewell and agricultural pump lines for which, the state government gives subsidised rates? Is this a legal means or did someone in the UP Government benefit from this elaborate facility? Did the Samajwadi Party government turn a blind eye to this? Worse, did they later tell the Central Government in writing that the village had not power, and to add to it, not even bother to provide electricity through the new infrastructure?
From this episode it is clear that the Samajwadi Party has been trying to defeat the very purpose of this scheme. With an eye around elections, the Samajwadi Party has been creating much ruckus in parliament under the vocal leadership of Naresh Agarwal (of ‘a teaseller cannot become a Prime Minister’ fame). It has been demanding additional funds for Uttar Pradesh. The question that needs asking is funds to create ghost infrastructure or non-existent infrastructure.
Clearly, the UP government has much to answer. The NDA government has now used its implementing agency, the Rural Electrification Corporation (REC) to seek details from the Uttar Pradesh government on this village. It has also uploaded all the relevant documents, many of which have been quoted above, on its website.
As more details come to light, the opposition will realise that in reality they have added credence to BJP claims that the UP government is not co-operating with the Centre. Public opinion is already poor of the State Government. With this it will add weight to the belief that Modi’s intentions are good but the system does not support him. Elections are round the corner and these developments could not have come at a more “August” time for the BJP.