Ahead of the launch of the 341-kilometer Purvanchal Expressway in Uttar Pradesh, Union Minister of Commerce & Industry, Consumer Affairs & Food & Public Distribution and Textiles Piyush Goyal spoke about the development brought about in the state by the government at a media briefing on November 14, 2021 where he claimed that entire UP receives 24-hour electricity, i.e., there is an uninterrupted supply of electricity throughout one of India's most populated states.
"Aaj poore pradesh mein, chaubis  ghante bijli, apne aap mein, udhyog aur vyaapar ke liye bahut bada saadhan hai," said the commerce and industry minister, which when translated means: "A 24-hour supply of electricity in the entire state today is itself a proponent of industry and trade."
FactChecker found that this claim is not fully accurate as there are many parts of the state that do not receive electricity for hours on a daily basis.
Interestingly, we also found an entire village of around 450 people in Etah district that is yet to be electrified. There are 97,941 populated villages in the state.
But first, let's see the electrification status in the state from the year 2017, its progress and current status.
Electrification Status of UP (2017-2021)
At the end of financial year 2016-2017, over 1.12 crore households were yet to be electrified, according to the '24x7 Power For All Uttar Pradesh' report by the Union Ministry of Power. The report goes on to mention that electrified rural households received 18 hours of electricity on a daily basis; tehsil towns and Bundelkhand received 20 hours of electricity daily; while district headquarters and cities received electricity throughout the day.
Under the Pradhan Mantri Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojana (Saubhagya), the government provided free electricity connections to 79,80,568 households in UP between October 11, 2017 and March 31, 2019, according to an answer provided in the the Lok Sabha on March 19, 2020 by Union Minister of Power & Renewable Energy, RK Singh.
"Uttar Pradesh reported 12 lakh households which were unwilling earlier but later willing to get electricity connection. Out of these un-electrified households, 6.17 lakh households have been electrified up to 28.02.2020," Singh mentioned in the answer.
Parts of UP Still Unelectrified
Under Saubhagya, electricity was provided to over 2.81 crore households across India, according to Singh's reply in Parliament. Although the central government's efforts to provide electricity connections to the country's population have been impactful, 6.8% of the households in UP remained unelectrified, according to the 'State of Electricity Access in India' report by the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW), which was published in October 2020.
The report's analysis, however, was based on the insights gained from CEEW's India Residential Energy Survey, which was conducted on 14,850 households in 1,210 villages and 614 urban wards across 152 districts in 21 states between November 2019 and March 2020.
But under Saubhagya, between April 1, 2019 and March 31, 2021, 12 lakh more households were electrified in UP, according to another answer provided by Singh in the Lok Sabha on August 5, 2021. Thus, the government electrified 5.82 lakh households between March 1, 2020 and March 31, 2021.
According to UP's State Fact Sheet of the National Family Health Survey - 5, 2020-21 (NFHS-5), as of April 19, 2021, 91% of UP's population living in households had electricity. The survey was conducted across 70,710 households in the state. Moreover, while 97.6% of the urban population living in households had electricity, 88.9% of the rural population living in households had electricity, read the survey.
The fieldwork for the NFHS-5 was conducted from January 13, 2020 to March 21, 2020 (prior to the first lockdown) and from November 28, 2020 to April 19, 2021.
Areas with Power Interruptions
For September 2021, there have been an average of 7.84 interruptions causing power supply outages for an average of 25 hours and 51 minutes in urban regions supplied to by PUVVNL, according to the 'urban distribution' section on the NPP's dashboard. Data from the other three discoms in UP under 'urban distribution' was not available on the dashboard.
For PUVVNL, out of the listed towns (on the dashboard) that receive electricity from the discom, the town of Chunar had an average of 66.67 interruptions in September 2021, which was the highest. Chunar was followed by Ghosi (52), Mubarakpur (48.97), Obra (37), Maunath Bhanjan (26.3), and Azamgarh (18.18). Fifteen more towns reported interruptions, according to the dashboard.
When it comes to the monthly average duration of interruptions, the town of Kopaganj topped the list with 403 hours and 31 minutes of interruptions. It was followed by Maunath Bhanjan (110 hours and 24 minutes), Mubarakpur (91 hours and 28 minutes), Ghosi (74 hours), Chunar (61 hours and 42 minutes), Azamgarh (33 hours and 34 minutes). There were 15 more towns that experienced interruptions.
Under 'rural distribution', while data from PUVVNL, PVVNL and DVVNL was 'awaited', the dashboard showed that regions supplied to by MVVNL did experience interruptions in September 2021. Under rural areas, MVVNL's 'feeders' supply to agricultural and 'rural and mixed' areas.
Current Status of Electrification in UP
The Saubhagya dashboard mentions that 100% of households in UP are electrified. But people in Etah district's Nagla Tulai village have no access to electricity for days.
FactChecker spoke to Shyam Singh (48), a daily-wage labourer (and father of seven), and Amarnath Singh (32), a mathematics and physics teacher in Nagla Tulai, which falls under Raja Ka Rampur Dehat gram panchayat in Etah. Both said the village hasn't had access to electricity since Independence. They had even complained to officials, but only after The Times of India reported on the matter this Diwali, did the authorities decide to include the village in the Centre's Revamped Distribution Sector Scheme.
"The entire village has no electricity. Right now we are using some solar plates [or panels] which provide electricity for a limited period of time. We make do with it on days when there is sunlight, which charges the plate, and on days when there is no sunlight, we spend our nights in darkness," said Shyam Singh.
Over the years, the villagers' complaints to officials have not seen any result; they don't know whether the authorities concerned have received the complaints or not, said Singh. "If there is a chance to charge our phones through the solar plates, we do that at night; otherwise, to charge our phones we have to go to the nearby village which is 2 kilometers away."
"There is no provision of electricity in our village where around 450 people live. There is complete darkness at night," said Amarnath Singh who lives in Nagla Tulai and teaches at Saraswati Inter College nearby.
Chandrapal Shakya (48) and Guddi Devi (45), inhabitants of Nagla Tulai, spoke to FactChecker about their struggle, as shown in the videos below.
"We've gone with our complaints to the authorities on many occasions, but there has been no response from their end," said the teacher, adding, "A day before Diwali [this year] there were some officials who came and told us that they'd provide electricity within the next 8-10 days but nothing happened after that."
Why More Power Outages in Rural Areas
To understand what a feeder is and how the end-consumer is affected through power interruptions in the feeder, FactChecker spoke to an expert in a research organisation that works on energy policy.
"Feeders are lines through which electricity is carried from source to consumers. In the distribution network a feeder line carries electricity from the distribution substation to the distribution transformer which then supplies electricity to consumers. An outage on the feeder will, hence, impact all consumers receiving electricity supply from that feeder," explained the expert, while requesting anonymity. "Unless there's a ring feeder mechanism available which supplies the power in the case of an interruption in the feeder. But this is typically found in urban areas where heavy economic activities are on and power outages are not desirable."
For the state of UP, MVVNL has 1,323 11KV feeders supplying to 'rural and mixed' areas and each feeder reported an average of 73.06 interruptions in September 2021. The average duration of interruptions or power outages for each feeder during the month was 223 hours and 48 minutes; which means that in the 30 days of September, each of the 1,323 feeders experienced interruptions for a total of 9 days, 7 hours and 48 minutes on average. This means, out of 30 days, there was no power for a total of almost 9 and a half days in 'rural and mixed' areas supplied to by MVVNL.
MVVNL has 36 agricultural 11KV feeders in UP. Each of these agricultural feeders reported an average of 52.78 interruptions in September 2021. So, the average duration of interruption for each feeder in September 2021 was 294 hours and 34 minutes. This means that of the 30 days, power supply outage was reported for an average of 12 days and 6 hours. These agricultural areas were without electricity for over a third of the month.
"One of the main issues when it comes to power, especially for remote villages, is distance [from the power stations]. Many homes have electricity but yes, there are some villages where there are issues and hindrances related to constant supply of electricity, and we're trying to resolve them. It's going to get better with time, and within the next six months the facilities will be better," an official at MVVNL, who did not wish to be named, told FactChecker.
In fact, as of 4:53 p.m. on November 23, 2021, there were six unscheduled power outages in the state under MVVNL, all of which were caused due to feeder failure, according to the power ministry's Urja Mitra dashboard. Three of these are at the Nadosi substation in Bareilly, 2 at Neemsar (Sitapur), and 1 at Bijuwa (Lakhimpur Kheri).
Even as NPP's rural and urban distribution dashboards await data from other discoms in UP, the available data show that there have been power outages in the state and the supply of electricity is not uninterrupted as claimed by Goyal.FactChecker spoke to OP Dixit, officer on special duty at the head office of PUVVNL. He said he would not address the queries over the phone and would respond through email. FactChecker has emailed Dixit and this report will be updated when we receive a response.