Thirteen other villages in Gadchiroli will soon get electricity for the first time
Pandurang Hichami of Garanji village is a delighted man these days. He has just bought a small Hilton TV. His mud-and-brick house is among the four in the village to have one. He bought the TV set in July when this village in Maharashtra’s Naxal belt of Gadchiroli finally got electricity — 66 years after Independence.
“We were accustomed to this darkness. Our kids studied under kerosene lamps, some of them opting to go the nearby town to study. No government official, including the primary schoolteacher, stayed in our village as there was no power,” he says. Thirteen other villages in Gadchiroli are on their way to getting electricity for the first time. They are in different phases of electrification — the first such effort by the State.
Bizarrely, several other villages here had power connections but could not get supply because of equipment damage. The electricity department did not make an effort to restore connections because of the tough terrain and Naxal presence. But the district administrations finally decided to change the situation. The former Collector, Abhishek Krishna asked the Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Company (MSEDCL) to prepare a list of such villages. “Initially, MSEDCL told us that there were only 30 such villages in Gadchiroli. But a survey showed that 268 villages in the district lacked power,” said Mr. Krishna. Out these, 62 were never electrified and the remaining got a connection about 35 years ago. “But the people lived without light because the power lines had snapped,” he added.
Garanji was selected as the first village to be electrified but the path to power was not easy. “Being a Naxal area, no contractor was ready to lay the power line on the 12 km stretch from Vikaspalli to Garanji. After some persuasion, a contractor agreed but the forest department refused permission because some trees needed to be cut to lay the power line. We asked for permission in 2011, but got the go ahead only two years later, “said Dilip Kumbhare, an MSEDCL official who led the team which electrified Garanji.
After the forest department’s clearance, the people of Garanji came forward to help Mr. Kumbhare’s team. “Villagers helped us in cutting off some of the trees and branches that lay in way of the power line. But in their enthusiasm they ended up dismantling 40 poles,” recollected Mr. Kumbhare. It took another two months to reinstall the poles. Power came to Garanji on July 14, but went off in just four days after a key transmission line snapped. Heavy rain and dense forests delayed repair works. The connection was only restored a month later. Officials say that the pending works in 13 villages like Garanji, which are being electrified for the first time, will be completed by December.
Today, most of the houses in Garanji have CFL bulbs and table fans. A TV set tops the priority list of many in the village. “Who wants to live in dark? It was just that we had no other option. Wait for the paddy season to finish and you will see a TV set in every house” says Ratan Haldar.