Change Comes from within the Society: Women in Rajasthan turn Vigilantes to power a Change in Bithur
Brigham Young says it right, “You educate a man; you educate a man. You educate a woman; you educate an entire Generation.”
Women are an inherent part of our society. In the early day’s women were confined to the role of wives who were intended to cook, clean, and take care of the household and kids. They were not allowed to vote while men took care of having jobs and paying any bills that had to be paid. But women have made vast improvements in their lifestyles in the past few decades from holding positions in governments to simple things like getting a job and supporting themselves and this could lead to a new society, just like Bithur which would be a better place to live and grow.
The Chief Minister of Rajasthan Smt. Vasundhara Raje not only frames schemes and policies for the Government rather also take proper care that the schemes are working for the people in a constructive way. She keeps a close check on how the scheme is turning out for the people and reviews them time to time to take the opinion of people. So, while Raje visited Bithur village of Rajasthan during a Nyay Aapke Dwar (justice at your doorsteps) campaign, a 60-year-old lady was sitting outside the Atal Sewa Kendra, Chhoti Hudda beside whom CM Raje stopped and asked, “Do you face any problems?” Hooda replied, “There’s is no power, no water.”
Then CM turned towards the official and asked about why the area doesn’t have electricity to which the officer replied that under a new scheme introduced in January, electricity supply is cut to those rural areas where T&D losses are more than 40%.
To this, the CM turned around and asked the locals if they could bring the losses down. “It’s in your hands — you bring down losses, we will give you better supply,” she said.
This simple question changed the life of 597 households across Ajmer district and given birth to a statewide plan driven by women to curb power transmission and distribution (T&D) losses.
The Bithur model is a totally community driven initiative where villagers, especially women of the area have raised awareness and monitored power thefts. For T&D losses, power thefts are one of the biggest reasons, thus the power department joined hands with the elected representatives from the area and together they cut losses and improve supply.
The women took up the challenge and took an oath to curb power theft, tampering with meters, payment backlog and turning a blind eye to power thieves. Since then, the loss has remained under 20%. The local women motivated people against power thefts and also formed vigilance teams that conducted raids and nabbed thieves to curb culprits.
A 32-year-old woman, Kiran Singh of Naya Gaon said, “People didn’t like us telling them not to steal power. Some told us to mind our own business. But we were determined — if someone didn’t listen to our requests, we informed vigilance teams. Vigilance action instilled fear and everyone fell in line.”
They not only checked the power thieves by reporting 12 cases and imposing a penalty of more than Rs. 2.5 lakh on defaulters but also got 20 new connections for villagers.
Salma Khan, 27- year old, Gram Panchayat Sarpanch of Bithur said, “We called the district administration and power department officials in those meetings and explained that theft was responsible for up to 14 hours of outage in our village. Some understood, some had to be pushed, but the result is for all to see.”
Nasirabad sub-divisional magistrate Anupama Tailor says, “We found people running borewells with a single-phase connection and some even ran them with domestic connections. You need a three-phase agriculture connection for borewells.”
As per the data, out of total 47 feeders in Nasirabad, Bhimpura had the highest T&D loss every month until May, whereas, now it has the lowest. The financial losses to the department have also reduced specifically due to this innovative step. For this reason, the state government and CM Raje has highly appreciated the efforts of the concerned officials and that of the locals. Also, they named it the Bithur model of reducing T&D losses and plans to implement it across 5,000 feeders in all sub-divisions where losses are more than 40%. There are 21,000 feeders in the state.
State plans to make some ‘Urja Mitras’ out of the volunteering people to work together with the department for strengthening the distribution system.
Recently, due to the power tariff hike, there has been a lot of disappointment in people and therefore, it is believed by the authorities that if T&D losses can be cut by 6%-7%, the discoms will become profitable and an increase in tariffs can be avoided.
Rajasthan Energy Minister Pushpendra Singh Ranawat says that “It would be profitable to adopt Bithur model. To provide good quality power supply, we are also improving the system and the mindset of people with their participation. Various committees are being formed at the district and sub-divisional levels for implementing the model.”