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Saturday, 12 May 2018

The Hindu Editorial: In A State Of Energy Poverty

Mahendra Guru
The Hindu Editorial: In A State Of Energy Poverty

Title: In a state of energy poverty 

(It is uncertain if the goal of electrifying all ‘willing households’ will mean universal access) 

Context:- There is now 100% village electrification in India, an important milestone in the country’s development trajectory. 

In response to the regional imbalances in electrical development, led largely by the private sector, the Constituent Assembly set the ground for public sector-led electrification in the country. 

But despite dedicated public agencies, a planned approach, a sustained political mandate and continued public spending by the Centre and States, India has been considerably slow in reaching the milestone. 

Another important turnaround came last year when India claimed to be a net surplus and exporter of electricity (a scenario projected to continue for at least a decade). But do these developments mark an end to India’s energy poverty? 

India continues to harbour energy poverty; 31 million rural households and about five million urban households are still to be connected to the grid — the highest in any single country. At the same time, a significant portion of connected rural households is yet to get adequate quantity and quality of supply. 

The Central government has set itself an ambitious target of connecting all remaining households by the end of March 2019 and made budgetary allocations to cover the cost of electrification. As part of a Centre-State joint initiative on 24×7 ‘Power for All’, State governments have already committed to ensuring round-the-clock supply to all households from April 2019. 

The aspiration for access to clean, reliable and affordable power for all is not free from barriers and fallibility. 

Seven States (Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Odisha, Jharkhand, Assam, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh) account for 90% of un-electrified households. Coincidentally, these States are ranked poorly in social development indices and house about two-thirds of the population living below the poverty line. 

This concurrence between economic poverty and energy poverty will be a barrier to the goal of universal access. 

Who pays for the cost of supply will also be a critical driver. Electricity distribution companies (discoms) in these seven States are already highly indebted, accounting for 42% of accumulated debts of all discoms as on March 2016. 

Despite continued State subvention (except by Odisha), all these discoms have been consistently running at a loss, accounting for about 47% of the loss in electricity distribution business. 

Challenges in distribution 
The other major challenge is from distribution network capacity. Electrification in India has followed an approach of expansion, often driven by political considerations, without much emphasis on capacity augmentation and making the grid future ready. 

As a result, the distribution infrastructure is overburdened, as the demand has grown, causing a high level of technical losses and frequent breakdowns. The distribution network capacity in several States is inadequate to carry available electricity. 
Adding new load to the existing fragile distribution network will only compromise the quality and reliability of supply. It could result in continued blackouts for the rural poor during peak hours. 

State strategy documents on 24×7 ‘Power for All’ highlight the need and quantum of augmentation required in distribution network capacity. 

While the Central government has come up with multiple schemes with budgetary allocations since 2001, the available funding support has been short of the growing requirement. 

Will power flow in villages? Will newly connected households stay plugged into the grid? It will depend on the ability of the Centre and States to generate required capital investments, timely upgradations in transmission and distribution networks and covering the costs of servicing less remunerative loads. 

Final Words: 
Until then, the volume of dark homes (in absolute numbers) in a fully-wired country may remain as big as it was in the virgin field for electrification. 


(An Australian scientist opts for assisted euthanasia, starts a conversation on the right to choose one’s own death.) 

Context:- Without the slightest regret, David Goodall has died for the cause that he lived for. Choosing to end his life at 104, Australia’s oldest working scientist travelled to Basel, to take advantage of Swiss laws which support assisted euthanasia, which is banned in his native country. 

He died by his own hand at a right to die organisation which he was a member of. And, realising that news of his case had ricocheted around the world, he took the opportunity to promote the cause of death with dignity by holding a last press conference. He hoped that it would pressure Australia towards legal reform. 

Indeed, the right to a happy life implicitly includes the right to a happy death. One without the other is, quite literally, a sticky end. But the question of euthanasia is muddied by religious notions concerning the sanctity of life, and the argument that it is a gift from a higher being, which human beings do not have the right to spurn. 

But in our rights-based construction of the world, complete control over one’s life is the basis of personal autonomy, on which the entire superstructure of modern politics, ethics and law stand. But it is incomplete without the right to choose one’s own death. 

This incompleteness is very unwillingly recognised by even progressive legal systems, for it militates against generations of conditioning. In India, suicide has been decriminalised and the courts have ruled in favour of the living will, conferring the right to choose in advance the point at which one would refuse therapy for the prolongation of life. 

Final Words: 
But it will take a deeper appreciation of the rights inherent in the individual, and better protocols to ensure that those who assist in a happy death do not benefit by it, before the final step can be taken 

Phrasal Verb 
Get along = Have a good relationship 
Get around = Avoid someone or something, go many places 

Vocabulary words: 

Trajectory (noun) = The path followed by a projectile flying (प्रक्षेप पथ) 

Harbour (verb) = Keep something in mind, especially secretly (मन में रखना) 

Fallibility (noun) = The tendency to make mistakes or be wrong (भ्रमशीलता) 

Endeavour (noun) = An attempt to achieve a goal (प्रयास) 

Persist (verb) = Continue in an opinion in spite of difficulty (क़ायम रहना) 

Concurrence (noun) = The fact of two or more events or circumstances happening or existing at the same time (एकचित्तता) 

Constrain (verb) = Compel or force to follow (विवश) 

Augmentation (noun) = The action of becoming greater in amount or size (वृद्धि) 

Fragile (adj) = Easily broken or damaged (नाज़ुक) 

Sluggish (adj) = Inactive, lacking energy or alertness 

Consensus (noun) = A common agreement (आम सहमति) 

Remunerative (adj) = Financially rewarding, lucrative (लाभप्रद) 

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