Raghunathpur (Bihar), Sep 12 (IANS) Israel Khan and Awadesh Lal were happy when their village in Bihar's Aurangabad district got electricity in February - 66 years after independence. There was much celebration but the joy lasted just a few days.
The transformer feeding the village burnt out and is yet to be replaced. Darkness has descended once again, but the state government says it is helpless.
Raghunathpur village, just 95 km from state capital Patna, is not an isolated case. More than 9,000 villages across Bihar have been suffering in darkness - some for years and some for months - because burnt transformers have not been replaced.
"Each of us spent at least Rs.500 to Rs.1,000 for wires, switches and bulbs after electricity reached the village. It was like a dream, but then the transformer got burnt due to overloading. We have been waiting for its replacement for over seven months," Israel Khan told IANS.
In Bihar's rural areas, official figures show, 9,200 transformers of 16 KVA, 25 KVA and 40 KVA installed by the central agencies under the Rajiv Gandhi Gramin Vidyutikaran Yojana (RGGVY) that was meant to electrify villages, have burnt out, mainly due to overloading.
These transformers are among the 45,459 installed by the Power Grid Corporation of India and the National Hydroelectric Power Corporation under the RGGVY scheme in 2005-06.
"On an average, it is reported that every day four to five transformers get burnt," an official said.
Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had last year urged the central government to upgrade the transformers but to no avail. The state had also sought at least 5,000 replacement transformers.
Energy Minister Bijendra Prasad Yadav said the state government cannot replace the burnt transformers on its own as they were installed by the central government.
"These transformers were installed under a central government scheme for electrification of rural areas," Yadav pointed out.
Last year power-starved Bihar sought 5,000 new transformers from the central government to replace burnt transformers in rural areas to alleviate the misery of tens of thousands of rural folks. But no one is listening
(Imran Khan can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)