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The Centre will launch its own scheme to counter the Samajwadi Party government's efforts in the area of solar electrification in poll-bound Uttar Pradesh. The 'Right to Light' programme, engineered by the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay (IIT-B), aims at providing solar lamps for reading purposes to schoolgoing children. The scheme has already been piloted successfully in five states, and will now be rolled out, with the help of Piyush Goyal's ministry of new and renewable energy (MNRE), in UP and four other states including Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa and Assam, as a larger pilot targeting one crore students. In UP alone, the scheme will cover 296 development blocks where electrification is less than 50%, and will cater to 1.03 crore schoolgoing students.
The Right to Light initaitive, led by Professor Chetan Singh Solanki of the department of Energy Science and Engineering at IIT-B, will target students located in the most educationally backward blocks, in homes which are still dependent on kerosene, and who are concentrated in tribal pockets. Sources told TOI that while the IIT-B team had proposed a funding model that splits the cost of every solar lamp between the Centre, state government, and the beneficiary student, the ministry has turned down the proposal to involve the state government. While beneficiary students will still have to pay up for obtaining a solar lamp, MNRE will bear the remainder of the cost.
The Centre's decision to exclude UP government from the implementation of the solar lamp initiative comes at a time when the two are locked in a battle of wits over what UP refers to as "lopsided" cooperative federalism. The Akhilesh Yadav-led SP government has claimed it has lost Rs 13,000 crore as a result of the Centre's revised fund-sharing pattern under which several development schemes have faced fund cuts, while many others have been delinked from central funding, entirely.
It also points to growing differences between the Centre and the UP government, not only in light of the impending assembly elections where political one-upmanship on the development ground will be key, but also because the government of UP has refused, till now, to be a signatory to the Centre's Power to All programme. Government officials said UP is dragging its feet due to differences with the Centre over fund-sharing for the implementation of the scheme. The Right to Light programme, likely to be launched by early September, is also similar to UP government's own scheme in which BPL houses are given solar power packs containing two lamps of 3 watts, one lamp of 5 watts, a DC ceiling fan and a mobile charging point for mobile charging that is able to operate for up to 8 hours per day.
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