The Centre's exaggerated claims on how many villages had been electrified was once again laid bare—and this time the embarrassing faux-pas was made by the Prime Minister in his Independence Day address. As millions of Indians tuned in to hear PM Narendra Modi speak from the ramparts of the Red Fort on Monday, he claimed that a tiny village in Uttar Pradesh had finally been electrified, seven decades after independence.
He was wrong.
"Brothers and Sisters, you will be surprised to know that at merely three hours journey from Delhi, there is a village called Nagla Fatela in Hathras region," Modi said during his Independence Day speech. "But it took 70 years for electricity to reach there. 70 years, my brothers and Sisters! And therefore, I am introducing you to the work culture that we are following."
As officials from the power department rushed to this village of 600 homes, it quickly became evident that not only was the village not electrified, 150 of the houses have had access to electricity through illegal 'katia' connections since 1985, reported The Indian Express. Nothing much has changed since then.
According to the report, even though infrastructure was provided to this village—along with 10,044 others—for electrification under the Deen Dayal Upadhyay Gram Jyoti Yojana, electricity was never provided to the village. The reason for this could be ridiculous, if it wasn't tragically true. According to the power department, this is because the private company that constructed the electric poles and wires never gave the government a "no-objection certificate" to provide electricity.
In fact, photos shared by the PM's official Twitter handle (@PMOIndia), showing villagers watching television on Independence Day, also appear to be of a different village, locals told Express. These tweets have been since deleted.
Even as the central government's Press Information Bureau put out a statement, claiming that the Dakshinanchal Vidyut Vitran Nigam Limited (DVVNL) Agra had informed the government that Nagla Fatela had been electrified last year in October, DVVNL Aligarh's chief engineer, VS Gangwar reportedly refuted the claim, saying no such information had been sent to the government.
This is not the first time that the Centre's claims of electrification of villages has been found to be incorrect. Earlier this year, The Hindu reported how the government was counting many villages—as many as 345—as electrified even though they did not have power connections. More than half of the 7,000 villages that the government claimed to have electrified already had electricity connections, the report found.
Last year, Modi had announced on Independence Day that all 18,452 un-electrified villages would have access to electricity within 1,000 days, or in a little over three years.