Failing to realise even half the power dues from villages, the energy department in Uttar Pradesh has now decided to avail the services of women self-help groups (SHGs) that have been engaged to unpaid electricity bills from inhabitants in 60,000-odd villages. The state energy department has signed an agreement with Rural Livelihood Mission in this connection and training for recovery will begin on Tuesday.
Energy minister Srikant Sharma said UP is the first state in the country to have taken this initiative in which rural women will be given employment. He said these women would only recover power dues in villages where the recovery ratio of UP Power Corporation Limited (UPPCL) is low. In UP, rural electricity consumption is about 40 per cent. However, the recovery is only 50 per cent of the total dues of these areas. The UPPCL has decided to give Rs 20 per electricity bill to the women SHGs as recovery charge. However, if the recovery is over Rs 50,000 the corporation will offer one per cent commission to the SHG. UPPCL will engage some 50,000 women in the state-wide recovery drive.
At present, there are around 300,000 SHGs engaging 3.7 million women in the state. The new scheme of the UP government will help increase the income of women besides giving some of them an employment opportunity. Announcing the launch of this scheme, Sharma said it would help increasing UPPCL's revenue as well, and that in the first phase of the project, 10,000 SHGs will be engaged for and soon, in each of the 60,000 panchayats this work will begin. The Rural Livelihood Mission will provide necessary equipment for bill recovery to the SHGs.
It may be mentioned that earlier a pilot project of this kind was started in Varanasi, Gorakhpur and Mathura. Seeing the performance of the SHGs the state government decided to extend the project to all other districts.