As the NDA government heads into the last lap, the UJALA programme sets a shining example for other ministries.
The moment of reckoning for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government is here. With less than a year to go for the national elections of 2019, it is time for the evaluation of programmes that were started under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and various other ministries.
Programmes like Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, Jan Dhan Yojana, Aadhaar and Ujjwala Yojana have managed to change the lives of millions across India for the better through financial inclusion, enhanced household facilities in the form of LPG gas connections, and greater and timely accessibility to subsidies. However, there are many other initiatives, whose outcomes have been difficult to evaluate, due to lack of transparency in their functioning and reach.
While the lack of transparency in the progress is no indicator of the performance of these programmes, it surely adds to the unnecessary opacity. For instance, due to political and judicial constraints, it has not been possible for the government to make any headway when it comes to the Aadhaar programme. The portal for Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana-Gramin (PMAY-G) also suffered from incomplete data in its early days (now it is completely updated). Given how instrumental Aadhaar and PMAY-G have been to the population, it would be unfair to judge the programme via the constraints they once had or continue to have.
Under Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL), a government company directly controlled by the Ministry of Power, the Unnat Jyoti by Affordable LEDs for All (UJALA) programme was started in 2015. For a nation that aspires to lead the world in the fight against climate change and move towards energy conservation, UJALA offered the ideal opportunity.
UJALA’s primary objective was to usher energy conservation in lighting. Given lighting accounts for 20 per cent of the electricity consumption in India, installation of LEDs helped electricity distribution companies manage excess demand. The move also helped consumers realise the importance of efficient lighting along with reduced bills. Sale of LEDs at subsidised prices was made through kiosks and other regional and local government centres, making the public an integral part of the process. With LEDs installed, people were able to save more on their bills, even against the one-time cost of procurement of those LEDs.
However, one of the major takeaways from the UJALA programme has been its online dashboard, accessible via the website and mobile apps. Not only does the dashboard offer an accurate count of the bulbs, tubelights and fans sold under the programme, but also offers a comprehensive account of state-wise progress, energy consumption and conservation, and the collective impact of the programme on the environment.
The dashboard has separate interfaces for enthusiasts to check for the number of LEDs, bulbs and tubelights sold within the main UJALA dashboard. For instance, as one logs on to the website, the count of LEDs sold is displayed. Updated every second, the count reflects the units of energy saved each year, cost-saving per year, avoided peak demand, and the reduction in carbon dioxide on an annual basis. For LEDs sold alone, at the time of writing this article, the count is more than 303 million.
Alongside, agency distribution counts have also been added. In August 2017, a memorandum of understanding was signed with oil marketing companies under the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas by the Ministry of Power. These included Indian Oil Corporation Limited, Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited and Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited.
Given these companies have an expanding network of over 55,000 outlets across the country that not only offer fuel but also other utility services like ATMs and groceries (in selected cities), collaborating with them for sale of energy efficient appliances under UJALA was an intelligent move. Alongside, Common Service Centres, Department of Post, and the Building Department were brought on board for the distribution and sales. While major distribution has happened in kiosks, the collaborations with the above-stated companies contributed to the spread of awareness of the programme.
Under the UJALA programme, close to 2 million fans and over 6 million tubelights have also been sold. While the major focus throughout the programme was on LEDs, the numbers for other appliances reflect a significant shift in the thought process of the population.
The dashboard also takes into account the sales of LEDs, bulbs and tubelights for each state. From the isolated areas of Kashmir to the thriving networks of Tamil Nadu, and from the coast of Gujarat to the last village in Arunachal Pradesh, every district has been encompassed within this programme, an achievement most programmes cannot boast of. Adding to the transparency, the dashboard offers an opportunity for competitive federalism, for numbers of each state, and further, each district can be analysed.
Transparency goes a long way in helping any programme, for people have its benefits to evaluate before they sign up, and the results from one programme often motivate people to sign up for another. While giant strides have been witnessed across most states in the UJALA programme, the inculcation of solar energy continues to remain a challenge. This is where the UJALA dashboard can and should come into play.
While the numbers on the dashboard do indicate the success of the programme, they do not offer any perspective for the common population. For instance, a first-time user has no way to make any sense of the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions by 30 million tonnes. Given 30 million tonnes worth of emissions are an equivalent of 5,827,739 cars driven for a year or 63,009,731 barrels worth of oil consumed, the dashboard must offer users a perspective of how UJALA has changed the environment for good, as Swarajya did in one of its stories on UJALA earlier this year.
Gujarat, with its emissions reduced by 4,122,214 tonnes (or 3,739,609 metric tonnes), equals the carbon dioxide absorption capacity of 96,000,000 tree seedlings grown for over 10 years. If the dashboard can include such equations for every state and district, it might enable the common user to understand how one LED bulb can go a long way in impacting the environment.
Without a doubt, the UJALA dashboard offers a lesson on how other ministries must curate their findings, outcomes and observations. From Aadhaar to PMAY-G, any and every programme under the central and any state government must help people reflect on how their participation has resulted in a better India.