Petromax Light in Modi’s Gujarat? Sanjeev Kumar

Guest Post by SANJEEV KUMAR 

Electricity Guj Kafila

The most visible hype that Modi and his supporters have been generating is over their claim of supplying round-the-clock electricity all over Gujarat. There is no doubt that Gujarat has almost doubled its electricity production between 2001 and 2011. But in the same period Haryana has tripled its generation [1]. Moreover, during Modi’s period (2000’s) the total installed capacity in Gujarat increased by only 44% when during the 1990s it had increased by 73%.

Consider now the consumption pattern. In a state which has been increasing its electricity production rapidly in the recent past, it is expected that the consumption of the electricity must be relatively higher than other states. But here’s what the figures show.

Gujarat claims that they are giving 24 hour electricity to villagers but if we examine the comparative figures with other states, the per capita consumption of electricity in Gujarat (15.547 Kwh per month) is much less than the per capita consumption of electricity in nine states or union territories while  there are five states that are only marginally behind Gujarat. Moreover, the growth in consumption of electricity in Gujarat was less during the Modi regime than in the decades before it – 143.97% during 1990s while during the decade-long rule of Modi, the growth was only 59.97% [2].

What is the reason for low consumption of electricity in Gujarat? The duty on use of electricity which is the highest in India. The tariff rate on electricity in rural areas is 20% if the consumption is less than 40 units per month,and 25% to 30% if the consumption is more 40 units [3].

Now consider the sectors in which consumption has risen. During 1990s the increase in consumption was highest in domestic sector, agriculture and in field of public water works while during 2000s the increase was highest in commercial and industrial sector. The consumption was decreased by around 16% in agriculture during 2000s [4] The total subsidy for Agriculture on electricity in Gujarat increased merely from Rs 3049 crore in 2007-08 to Rs 3451crore in 2010-11. The subsidy for domestic consumption was reduced from Rs 451 crore Rs 356 crore during the same period.

Compare this to Haryana where subsidy for agriculture and domestic consumption increased from Rs 3122 crore and Rs 416 crore to Rs 4224 and 1174 crore during the same period; and to Tamil Nadu where the figure jumped from Rs 4422 and 3125 crores to Rs 5924 and 5477 crore during the same time period.[5].

In 1991, long before Modi, as many as 17,940 out of 18,028 villages were already electrified in Gujarat. Even today, despite all the claims of electricity for all, 18 Lakh households in Gujarat have no electricity  [6]. As on March, 2011, 455885 applications are pending for agricultural power connection [7]. Over 5.64 lakh power pleas are still pending from farmers who have sought power for their agriculture needs in Gujarat. At the same time there was three fold increase in power theft in Gujarat between 2010 and 2013 [8]. That means the state is not giving them connection but caught them if they use electricity without having any connection.

Gujarat Government’s own documents reveal that out of 12181718 total households in Gujarat, the main source of lightning in 983813 households is Kerosene, and in 26155 households, other oils [9]. If there is universal electrification how come Kerosene or anything else come to be the primary source of lightning? It seems, Phanishwar Nath Renu’s short story ‘Petromax’ is still relevant in Gujarat. On the contrary, Kerosene’s supply by Government of Gujarat has been consistently reduced since 2001. In 1992 the average monthly allotment of Kerosene oil by state was 83791 kiloliters which increased to 90641 in 2001 but reduced again to 73074 kiloliters in 2005 [10].

Even on paper, the 24 hour electricity supply scheme (Jyotigram Yojana) needs close examination because the provision of 24 hour electricity supply in this scheme is meant only for household use and not for other purposes such as irrigation etc. Under Jyotigram scheme of Gujarat Government, the peasants are getting electricity for fewer hours a day than they did earlier. Under this scheme they get power for 8 hours a day while at the turn of the millennium they were getting 10 to 12 hours of electricity while in the 1980s the farmers were getting 18-20 hours electricity supply [11]. Earlier farmers used to pay flat rate on electricity on agricultural use but now they have to pay according to bill. Due to Jyotigram Scheme landless labourers who cultivate land on lease, face shortage of irrigation water and electricity because they don’t have allocation of electricity and water under the scheme because the scheme is meant only for land-owning peasants.  The price of water pumps in Gujarat has risen 40-60% during last one decade [12].

The kind of excuse that state government is giving for providing less electricity for irrigation to the farmers is illogical. Gujarat government says that costly and limited supply of electricity for irrigation will make peasants realise the true value of electricity. They also argue that the costly and limited supply of electricity to peasants will limit the use of excess water for irrigation and thus will help in curtailing the problem of ground water depletion.

Who does get duty free electricity, though? Tata’s Nano plant in Gujarat, which apparently has no responsibility towards ground water depletion. What a pity that a rich state like Gujarat, instead of arranging alternative irrigation facilities for peasants, places the burden of curtailing the problem of ground water depletion on the weakest and most starving section of the population while giving a free hand to capitalists in using ground water.

Gujarat government may put forward another hypothesis for explaining the reason for low consumption level in the state, by saying that the people of Gujarat are investment friendly and thus they prefer to save their increased income for further investment rather than spending on electricity. But this hypothesis also cannot work in case of Gujarat because per capita deposit ratio in the state is not good. In terms of credit-deposit ratio, Gujarat is far behind others:

In 2010 for Gujarat it was 4.70%, while  

for Maharashtra it was was 29.75%,

for Karnataka it was 6.71%  and

for Tami Nadu it was 9.61%.

The amount of per capita deposit and per capita credit for Gujarat was Rs 37,174 and Rs 24,268; while for Tamil Nadu, it was Rs 42,580 and Rs 47,964; for Karnataka it was Rs 49,598 and Rs 38,154; and for Maharashtra it was Rs 1,10,183 and Rs 89,575.

Even Kerala did better than Gujarat with Rs 43,890 and Rs 27,912 [13].

It is not that whatever has been said about Gujarat being supplying round the clock electricity supply does not have any truth. Gujarat is certainly providing round the clock electricity – to industries, markets or areas where extra-rich people have their offices and residence.

[1] Atul Sood, Poverty Amidst Prosperity: Essays on the Trajectory of Development in Gujarat, 2012, Aakar, p. 228, table 4.

[2]NSSO report 2009-10; published in 2012, p 41

[3] Government of Gujarat, Legislative and Parliamentary Affairs Department, schedule 1, section 3 (1) (a),  http://guj-epd.gov.in/Electricity%20Duty%20Act%201958.pdf (page number 12)

[4] Socio-Economic Review, Gujarat State 2012-13, pp S-56-60

[5] Sood, 2012, p. 230, table 4.13

[6] Times of India, 5 Oct 2011

[7] Ministry of agriculture, Gujarat, 2011-12

[8] Indian Express, 07 November 2013

[9] Socio-Economic Review, Gujarat State 2012-13, p. S-95

[10] Socio-Economic Review, Gujarat State 2005-06, p. S-111

[11] Tushaar Shah & Shilp Verma, Co-Management of Electricity and Groundwater: An Assessment of Gujarat’s Jyotigram Scheme, Economic & Political Weekly, February 16, 2008, p. 59

[12] Sucharita Sen and Chinmoyee Mallik, Understanding Gujarat’s Agricultural Growth in a liberalizing Environments : Signs of a Redefined Margin? Edt. By Atul Sood, 2012, p.125

[13] Times of India, 11 June 2012

This article is part of Sanjeev Kumar’s report on Gujarat’s model of development, prepared for  Jagriti Natya Manch (Theater Group).

9 thoughts on “Petromax Light in Modi’s Gujarat? Sanjeev Kumar”

  1. Wonderful. And we get this now? :)
    I wish the opposition to this man had been a little more organized and not now when it does not matter whether his idle boasts and lies are exposed or not. From now on, I think we shall see a little more belligerence as well. The die is cast, so he has nothing to lose except to exhort his followers into random acts of violence or to keep the communal fires burning. I worry that we are in for a bad patch in the near future (whether he gets to Dilli Darbar or not).

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    1. Dear Tejaswi,
      This article is part of a long report on Gujarat model of development, which has been in public domain since last week of the January(2014). This report is available in both Hindi and English. Based on the report we wrote and performed a street play titled “Jute Ki Chadar” in delhi and some parts of Bihar. We went to Bihar in first week of February and sold more than 100 copies of the Report. Its other matter that media is not interested in these kind of study. Everyone, from media to politicians and from activist to intellectuals of this country want to limit themselves to this bi-polarization of secularism and communalism. No one wants to go beyond this polarization. They know that it can give them TRP, Votes, name and fame in the world of activism and intellectualism.

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      1. Antim, I appreciate the trouble you have taken to do all this. That includes your taking the time in replying to my flippant comment. :)
        You are quite correct that there is no media that has been left untouched by this corrupting influence. I am not sure if it is just fear of reprisals, commercial interests, ideology or true admiration of the forces gathering around.
        You know, we too have street plays here. But it is like a half-hearted effort these days. It is a little sad that our state (Karnataka) which used to have a vibrant, dynamic, left leaning theater tradition is now struggling with its own existence, whether to remain ideologically firm or to re-form into a modern version. Laughably, people from Samudaya and other leftist theater groups have all gone into mainstream commercial cinema and TV. Those who persist in street plays here are often seen as dinosaurs. People are no longer receptive to the art form.
        There is no newspaper or magazine that can provide a forum for informed debate, even if it is neutral or partial to one side or the other. It is always black and white these days, there is no more grey. Television channels are always backed by vested interests. So then, what is left? Just the online medium, which is certainly not the way to reach a large number of people or even a percentage of the population.
        But I am glad that at least this one platform exists. Never mind the partisan commenting or the kind of low-brow debate that is generated as a result. But I am glad a statement is being made. In that, you are right. It needed to be said and you have said it. Thank you for taking the effort on our behalf, even though the target audience does seem too lazy to take the effort to learn a little more. Vox populi, vox diavoli… :)

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  2. So Gujarat is not courting fiscal disaster as are Haryana and Tamil Nadu. This is bad news why? Charging 10% to 30% rural-rates still equates to a 70% to 90% subsidy. Doesn’t spell “costly” to me.
    It is well known that “free” anything is used waste-fully, while even a small usage-charge means people will use it more responsibly. However, if farmers are actually not able to afford even 10% to 30% rates for power, there is a serious defect that needs to be looked into. Are farmers not able to demand the right price for thier produce OR is farm productivity so bad despite electricity being available that they can’t make any money? This needs to be fixed.

    And rising industrial electricity consumption also means more industrial employment and more industrial taxes to support state-spending. Isn’t that a good thing?

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    1. First of all its not 10% to 30%, instead its 25% to 30%. Secondly, its not rate at which Gujarat Government is charging to farmer for electricity consumption, instead its tariff rate which can also be termed as tax on consumption of electricity. Thirdly, it is same Gujarat who is charging 0% tariff from TATA’s NaNo plant on water and electricity consumption. Fourthly, farmers of Gujarat are being forced to so much responsible to pay all the charges that in case of not paying the amount, they commit suicide. Rising industrial electricity consumption means state is adopting capital intensive mode of production, which mean less employment generation.

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