NEW DELHI – In recent months, the villagers of Leisang saw small points of light on their mountain at night, wondering when it would finally be their turn to switch from kerosene lamps to electric light bulbs.
Then one day porters came from the city and fetched poles, wires and other materials for electrification. By Wednesday, all 14 households in the village had installed light bulbs. At 6 pm the whole village made them together and for the first time in history Leisang had electricity. The electrification of Leisang in the eastern state of Manipur was a milestone in the program of Prime Minister Narendra Modi bringing light to each of the villages of India.
"Yesterday we fulfilled a commitment that will change the lives of some Indians forever," Modi tweeted on Sunday. "I'm glad that every single village in India now has electricity."
When Modi came to power, 300 million people in India lived by candlelight. Electrification has been on the government's agenda since the country's independence from colonial rule, but hurdles have arisen, above all because of the enormous logistical challenges of powering remote settlements in difficult terrain.
For the past three years, Air Force pilots and helicopters have been deployed to provide material in remote areas. Elsewhere, people crossed dangerous rope bridges and rivers with materials on their heads.
The task, however, is far from complete, said Arunabha Ghosh, Chairman of the Council for Energy, Environment and Water. Government data show that only 8 percent of India's villages are fully electrified and that many villages experience power outages for hours every day.
"The government's definition of 'electrified' is very limited," Ghosh said. "What it means, there are now wires from power plants in every village, that does not mean that electrons flow through these wires."
The next challenge for the government will be to install electrical connections to about 30 million households not yet on the net, said Ghosh, and modes promises this By April 201
Local newspapers have reported that scattered villages across the country are not yet electrified.
"This is such a great job, it is possible that there are one or two or three mistakes," said Arun Kumar Verma, joint secretary of the Ministry of Power. But the government's electrification program – planned at around $ 11 billion – has fundamentally changed people's lives, he said, bringing many medieval villages into modernity.
Environmentalists have expressed concerns about the impact of millions of people in India on electricity, while coal-fired power plants are already contributing to high levels of pollution in cities.
"India has one of the most ambitious programs in the field of renewable energy," Verma said, addressing these concerns, adding that the country's per capita energy consumption is extremely low.
New electrical connections mean refrigerators, televisions and washing machines in villages, Verma said. It means that food can be stored more easily and stores can be opened later in the night. "Electricity is a prerequisite for health, education and economic activities," he said. "It's a basic amenity today, you need it."
Television had priority in Leisang. Four televisions were carried up the mountain in anticipation of the day when electricity would reach the village. Next on the list – rice cooker, said Helun Khongsai, a 45-year-old man who often travels to the village to see his mother.
"Every Sunday when we go to church, we would ask God for electricity to come to the village," said Khongsai, who witnessed the moment the lights lit. "Now it's like heaven here.
Pongminlan Haokip, village secretary, said, "Our village will change."
"Now they will bring computers, we will be able to see the news, we will connect with the world," Haokip added to the village chief's house to celebrate on Monday evening.
In other villages, the power infrastructure has improved.In Mohiuddinpur Lalsana, a two-hour drive from New Delhi, electricity records show that the village has been in their last days 18-19 The villagers said they had only seven to eight hours before the recent modernization of the government.
For many in the village, unpredictable and frequent power outages are still a nuisance Eight to ten people report complaints about power problems on a daily basis and show complaints.
"Most of the complaints are that there is no force at night," said Yudhvir Singh Sirohi, who oversaw the village's electrification. "Because there is a lot of use in the city at the time – people come home from work, turn on AC, and cook food, but tell me, if they turn off our power in those hours, how are the kids going to get here? Do Homework? "
But some of the poorest residents of the village – former untouchables – made new connections in January after living in the dark for decades. Kusum, who does not use a surname to hide her low caste, said her parents had given her husband a fan as part of his dowry when they were married. "This fan was sitting idle in our house for 15 years," she said. Now it's buzzing in the background as she rinses dishes after dinner.
Deepak Shijagurmayum in Imphal contributed to this report.