Should Electricity be made a Fundamental Right?

Imagine the frustration you feel when there’s a sudden power cut, and that too on a hot summer afternoon. Now imagine paying a hefty amount for the electricity you never used because of these frequent power outages. Electricity is like a gateway drug, once you have the ability to read at night, to use mobile phones, you can see what more there is, and want more. Unfortunately, this is not the case in most rural areas, which is the most important reason as to what actually inhibits development in these areas.

In 2018, the High Court of Himachal Pradesh in Madan Lal v. State of Himachal Pradesh & ors., reiterated that right to water and electricity supply come under the ambit of Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, as these are an integral part of right to life. It was held that these are basic necessities for human beings and can well be termed as essentials of human rights.

In April, 2018 Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that every single village has now been fully electrified and called it a historic day in the history of the country’s development journey. Let’s acknowledge that this was a huge accomplishment, but several hard truths still temper this achievement. The electrification benchmark of 10 per cent left the remaining 90 per cent of the village unelectrified. Moreover, approximately 13% of Indian households still don’t have access to grid connected electricity.

In 2017, a new scheme was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi by the name Pradhan Mantri Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojana – ‘Saubhagya.’ The scope of this scheme was providing last mile connectivity and electricity connections to all un-electrified households in rural areas. Unlike earlier schemes, this scheme changes the metric from village electrification to household electrification.

Covering all the households may well be a possibility, but when we refer to power with fundamental right of citizens, it is as much about electrification as about the quality of power, affordability and reliability. Access to unreliable power is hugely expensive to the poor households which moreover results in expensive capital equipment.

It is high time that we as Indian citizens consider Right to Electricity as a Fundamental Right. The link between poverty and lack of access to electricity is being seen as intolerable in recent times. Lack of access to electricity hampers all aspects of human fundamentals, from literacy to healthcare to economic deprivation. In 2013, Justice S Manikumar in an erudite judgment ruled that lack of electricity affects education and health and is a cause of economic disparity, and consequently, inequality in society leading to poverty. “Denial of it,” said Justice Manikumar, “would amount to violation of human rights.”

Moreover, from access to electricity as a fundamental right, access to reliable power should be a fundamental right. This is due to the fact that apart from those who have no access to power, there are million others who get power only sporadically. With this, closely tied is the idea of affordable power along with the idea of reliable power as the fundamental right.

The realisation of a reliable, affordable and universal power supply as a fundamental right will ensure that the villages will never have to live under the veil of darkness again.





Aishwarya Says:

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