Prime Minister Narendra Modi (third from right) announces a scheme to supply electricity to poor households in New Delhi on Monday. Photo: Hindustan Times

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s launch of the “Pradhan Mantri Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojana” (or Saubhagya ) scheme on Monday to supply electricity to 400,000 families who are deprived of regular power by December 2018 has attracted widespread criticism on social media.

In his speech, Modi said, “The government will connect each house, whether it is in village, a city or in remote locations. No poor [person] will have to pay for the connection. The government will go to each such poor (person’s) house and give a connection. A connection without spending a rupee. This will cost more than Rs16,000 crore. We have decided that no poor [person] will bear this burden.” But people would have to pay their monthly power bill, Times of India reported.

Under the scheme, smart and e-meters will be installed in every village and residents will be able to recharge them with their phones, just like their telephone connection. Residents can even do a recharge of just Rs50, News18 reported.

Scroll reported that the central government was already giving subsidies to states to provide free connections to people living below the poverty line under the Deendayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojna scheme, which, was launched in July 2015. It was a revised version of the Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojana program that the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government announced in 2005.

Meanwhile, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) hit out at Modi’s electricity scheme, saying that the situation won’t improve by merely adopting slogans. NCP leader Majeed Memon told ANI, “The prime minister has yet again come out with a quickie, yet another slogan – “Saubhagya.” There is no end to all this.”

Nawab Malik, another NCP leader, told ANI,“Till 31st January 2013 two crore five lakh houses got free electricity connection in the country, and the way Prime Minister Modi has announced the Saubhagya scheme, it is nothing but repackaging of old scheme in a new name.”

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