Two villages on the periphery of Lucknow are still waiting for that ‘elusive’ electricity connection

Just before the Holi celebrations this year, the residents of Sheetal Khera and Raja Khera villages near Mohanlalgunj in Lucknow district were surprised to see electric poles being unloaded at their villages. They were in for a pleasant shock when the labourers told that the villages were about to get electrified shortly.  

The news spread like wildfire: having electricity at home was like a distant dream for them that was about to come true. The Holi festivities were more colourful and joyous this time. 

But luck (or should we say the powers that be) had a different plan. Two months later, the villagers found the labourers returning — to take back the poles.

When they asked for the reason, they were told that the poles were meant for some other village and were mistakenly sent to these two villages. Sheetal Khera and Raja Khera are yet to be identified by the government for electrification! 

Seeing their long-cherished dream crumbling, men, women and children alike of both the villages started an agitation to salvage this chance of getting electricity. Their protests forced the labourers to return empty-handed. Immediately after this, the villagers came to a consensus to protect their rights. They initiated a talk with the local politicians and panchayat members. 

But all went in vain. One fine morning, State Electricity Department officials arrived with a large contingent of police and took away the poles. The villagers with the heavy deployment of police force, the state electricity department removed the polls from Sheetal Khera and Raja Khera. The poor villagers were forced to remain mute spectators. 

“We are poor farmers. How can we fight with the government? I thought, at least in the last few days of my life, I would be able to see lights after dusk. But now I have lost all hope,” 95-year-old Baburam Rajput of Sheetal Khera lamented.

Anger and frustration are common emotions in these two villages whose inhabitants are mostly small and marginal farmers. Middle-aged Pancham said: “We never had any basic facilities in our life and our children also will not have them.” 

Pancham’s daughter, 16-year-old Aarti retorted, “Everything is over; they have taken the poles back. Can you bring them back?”       

From behind their ghunghat, women whispered how they feel unsafe in the dark when they step out to answer nature’s call. Young villagers complained that they have to go to other villages to re-charge their mobile phones.

Officials in the State Electricity Department admitted that the poles reached these two villages by mistake as they are yet to be covered under any electrification scheme. Asked about the process of enrolment of villages under any scheme, they said that it is the responsibility of the panchayat, MLA and MP to recognise the need of any village and suggest the name for allocation of funds and schemes. There are two schemes presently running for rural electrification in the State: Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojana (RGGVY) funded by the Centre and Ram Manohar Lohia Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojana funded by the State government. 

In these villages located only 22 km from Lucknow city, people are still yearning for basic amenities. Students like Aarti are worried that they will be forced to discontinue their study as there is no college nearby.