On November 14, ahead of the launch of the 341-km Purvanchal Expressway in Uttar Pradesh, Union minister Piyush Goyal claimed that there is an uninterrupted supply of electricity throughout India’s most populous states.

“Aaj poore pradesh mein, chaubis [24] ghante bijli, apne aap mein, udhyog aur vyaapar ke liye bahut bada saadhan hai [A 24-hour supply of electricity in the entire state today is itself a proponent of industry and trade],” said the commerce and industry minister.

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 the Etah district that is yet to be electrified. There are 97,941 populated villages in the state.

But first, let us see the electrification status in the state from the year 2017, its progress and current status.

Electrification status

At the end of the 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”, it said.

Under the Pradhan Mantri Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojana (Saubhagya), the government provided free electricity connections to 79,80,568 households in Uttar Pradesh between October 11, 2017, and March 31, 2019, according to an answer provided in the Lok Sabha on March 19, 2020, by Union Minister of Power and Renewable Energy, RK Singh.

“Uttar Pradesh reported 12 lakh households that were unwilling earlier but later willing to get electricity connection,” Singh mentioned in the answer. “Out of these un-electrified households, 6.17 lakh households have been electrified up to February 28, 2020.”

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 Uttar Pradesh remained unelectrified, according to the “State of Electricity Access in India” report by the Council on Energy, Environment and Water, which was published in October 2020.

The report’s analysis, however, was based on the insights gained from Council on Energy, Environment and Water’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 Uttar Pradesh, according to another answer provided by Singh in the Lok Sabha on August 5. Thus, the government electrified 5.82 lakh households between March 1, 2020, and March 31.

According to Uttar Pradesh’s State Fact Sheet of the National Family Health Survey-5, 2020-21, as of April 19, 91% of Uttar Pradesh’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 National Family Health Survey-5 was conducted from January 13, 2020 to March 21, 2020 (prior to the first lockdown) and from November 28, 2020 to April 19.

Areas with interruptions

National Power Portal’s dashboard displays four electricity distribution companies under urban and rural distribution for Uttar Pradesh. These discoms are:

For September, 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 Purvanchal Vidyut Vitaran Nigam Limited, according to the “urban distribution” section on the National Power Portal’s dashboard. Data from the other three discoms in Uttar Pradesh under “urban distribution” was not available on the dashboard.

For Purvanchal Vidyut Vitaran Nigam Limited, 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, 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 Purvanchal Vidyut Vitaran Nigam Limited, Pashchimanchal Vidyut Vitaran Nigam Limited and Dakshinanchal Vidyut Vitaran Nigam Limited was “awaited”, the dashboard showed that regions supplied to by Madhyanchal Vidyut Vitaran Nigam Limited did experience interruptions in September. Under rural areas, Madhyanchal Vidyut Vitaran Nigam Limited’s “feeders” supply to agricultural and “rural and mixed” areas.

Current status

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 has not 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,” said Shyam Singh. “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.”

Over the years, the villagers’ complaints to officials have not seen any result. They do not 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 two km away.”

“There is no provision of electricity in our village where around 450 people live,” said Amarnath Singh who lives in Nagla Tulai and teaches at Saraswati Inter College nearby. “There is complete darkness at night.”

Chandrapal Shakya (48) and Guddi Devi (45), inhabitants of Nagla Tulai, spoke to FactChecker about their struggle.

“We have 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 had provided electricity within the next eight-10 days but nothing happened after that.”

Outages in villages

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,” explained the expert, while requesting anonymity. “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.”

“Unless there is a ring feeder mechanism available which supplies the power in the case of an interruption in the feeder,” the expert said. “But this is typically found in urban areas where heavy economic activities are on and power outages are not desirable.”

For the state of Uttar Pradesh, Madhyanchal Vidyut Vitaran Nigam Limited has 1,323 11 KV feeders supplying to “rural and mixed” areas and each feeder reported an average of 73.06 interruptions in September. The average duration of interruptions or power outages for each feeder during the month was 223 hours and 48 minutes. This means that in the 30 days of September, each of the 1,323 feeders experienced interruptions for a total of nine days, seven hours and 48 minutes on average. This means, out of 30 days, there was no power for a total of almost 9.5 days in “rural and mixed” areas supplied to by Madhyanchal Vidyut Vitaran Nigam Limited.

Madhyanchal Vidyut Vitaran Nigam Limited has 36 agricultural 11KV feeders in Uttar Pradesh. Each of these agricultural feeders reported an average of 52.78 interruptions in September. So, the average duration of interruption for each feeder in September 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],” an official at Madhyanchal Vidyut Vitaran Nigam Limited, who did not wish to be named, told FactChecker. “Many homes have electricity but yes, there are some villages where there are issues and hindrances related to a constant supply of electricity, and we are trying to resolve them. It is going to get better with time, and within the next six months the facilities will be better.”

In fact, as of 4:53 pm on November 23, there were six unscheduled power outages in the state under Madhyanchal Vidyut Vitaran Nigam Limited, 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, two at Neemsar (Sitapur) and one at Bijuwa (Lakhimpur Kheri).

Even as National Power Portal’s rural and urban distribution dashboards await data from other discoms in Uttar Pradesh, 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 Purvanchal Vidyut Vitaran Nigam Limited. 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.

With inputs from Shubham Shrivastav.

This article first appeared on FactChecker.in, a publication of the data-driven and public-interest journalism non-profit IndiaSpend.