Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday announced a scheme that aims to provide electricity to all household across the country by March 31, 2019. Under the “Saubhagya - Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojna”, the Centre aims to bring electricity to all villages by December 2018.

Billed as a pro-poor scheme, it also aims to promote the use of kerosene substitutes in houses and improve healthcare services and education. Improving communication, public safety and quality of life, especially for women, as well as increasing job opportunities, are part of the Saubhagya scheme’s goals.

The Centre said the total purview of the scheme is Rs 16,320 crore, and the government’s budgetary assistance is Rs 12,320 crore. Easily rechargeable smart meters will be installed at every village, officials said.

At the launch, Modi said that under the scheme, the government will provide free electricity to families below the poverty line, and that power connections will be set up in every household free of charge. “We have pledged that every poor will have access to electricity, and we are determined to do that,” the prime minister said.

He said the country was moving from “power shortage” to “power surplus”, and that every village in “New India” will have electricity. “The focus will be on equity, efficiency and sustainability in New India”, Modi said, adding that the Centre will launch two different schemes to improve the distribution of electricity in rural and urban areas. “This will cost Rs 69,000 crore,” he said.

The scheme will be funded by a 60% grant from the government, states will contribute 10%, and the rest is expected to be covered by loans. For special category states, the government will grant 85% of the outlay, while the states will contribute only 5%.

The announcement was made at an event celebrating the birth centenary of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh ideologue Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya.

Minister of State for Power RK Singh said the government’s target was to provide electricity to all households from Jammu and Kashmir to Kanyakumari by December 2018. “There should be no power outages due to shortage in supply,” he said.

On August 10, then Power Minister Piyush Goyal had told the Lok Sabha that the Centre aims to ensure that all households in the country have electricity before August 15, 2022, and all villages before May 2018.

As of May 2017, 73% of the 18,452 villages that the Bharatiya Janata Party government had identified for electrification in 2015 had power supply, but only 8% of them had all their households electrified, according to the government’s own data.

As many as 13,523 villages were electrified, but 100% household connectivity was achieved in only 1,089 villages. Besides, 25% (45 million) of rural households across the country still have no electricity. In Uttar Pradesh, Nagaland, Jharkhand and Bihar, fewer than 50% of rural households have electricity, three years after the BJP was sworn in at the Centre having promised “electricity for all”.