While the protestors outside of a snowy day Wembley Stadium in London, UK, were shouting slogans to show their disappointment of his visit, Prime Minister Narendra Modi promised that in the next 1000 days, he will take on the task of bringing electricity to the 18,000 villages in India which currently aren’t connected to the grid. Debajit Palit of The Hindu later raised concerns over this ambitious project saying, “Is it just electrification of villages or to provide quality and adequate electricity to all households?” In Uttar Pradesh, for instance, three out of four households get electricity for less than 12 hours a day. In Jharkhand, only 2% of electrified households get electricity for 20 or more hours; 81% do not get four or more hours in the evenings, while 60% face three or more days of total blackouts every month. PM Modi seems to have complete faith in the moral obligation that he thinks that he owes to the poor, circumventing the economical costs that India has to suffer in fulfilling his promises. According to ministry of India, a village is electrified, if it meets all of the following requirements:

  • The basic infrastructure such as distribution transformer and or distribution lines is made available in the inhabited locality within the revenue boundary of the village including at least one hamlet/Dalit Basti as applicable.
  • Any of the public places like Schools, Panchayat Office, Health Centres, Dispensaries, Community centers etc. avail power supply on demand.
  • The ratings of distribution transformer and LT lines to be provided in the village would be finalized as per the anticipated number of connections decided in consultation with the Panchayat/Zila Parishad/District Administration who will also issue the necessary certificate of village electrification on completion of the works.
  • The number of household electrified should be minimum 10% for villages which are unelectrified, before the village is declared electrified. The revision of definition would be prospective.

That does sound expensive. Note that the third point says that only 10% of villages need to be electrified for them to announced electrified villages. There should a revision of this policy. And this leads to a brand new sub-modular problem: how to electrify unelectrified households (90%) in electrified villages? While this question is to solve for later, we shall focus on trying to fulfill Modi’s promise without fatally bankrupting the Indian Government. How, in the name of God, can we electrify those 18,000 (16,530 to be exact according to former Congress-led alliance) villages?

The Dilemma Problem: What are the characteristics and features of a cloud-based internet of things to promote sustainable development of off-grid villages in India that need to be electrified?

In every node of a dilemma (or trilemma) problems, the anchor points need to be defined by focus and issues. So, as always, the anchors for a business plan need to be comprised of three nodes.

Is there an economic importance to this business plan? 

It is important to consider a business plan from the perspective of a profit model, not only viable for the provider, but also many secondary derivatives that need to be sustainable over a long period of time. The focus would, then, be to make profit from electrifying remote villages in India.

An ex-engineer named Loomba quit his job in a corporate company in 2002, and joined an ambitious initiative called Global Himalayan Expedition (GHE), which is driven by a focus of access to basic infrastructural facilities such as electricity and education and create a model of sustainability by using the infrastructure setup to promote income generation through tourism. He opened up an online booking portal to generate income by encouraging home-stays in these electrified villages.

The issue seems to be in scaling up the developed project with conventional approaches by the Government of India, according to The Hindu. Any business would be knee-deep in a viable business, only with the plans of expanding an anticipated money-making entity. Loompa told The Huffington Post that there is poor access to sufficient long-term low-cost capital to scale up.

What about environmental impact? 

Co2.jpg
INDC’s Major Carbon Monoxide Emitters (Source: The Hindu)

The focus of this driver would be to completely convert fossil-based fuel into a green, sustainable, renewable energy source. In November, 2015, the climate change summit that took place in Paris listed India to be the fourth major air pollutant in the world.

We want real electricity; not fake electricity!

There are many issues pawning this seemingly simple solutions. The major issue would be to making this driver complacent to all the countries. The key note speaker, Nobel peace price winner, and US president Barrack Obama said, “…no nation, not even one as powerful as [USA], can solve this challenge alone.  And no country, no matter how small, can sit on the sidelines. All of us had to solve it together.” In the same conference, Chinese Prime Minister Xi Jinping said that “[Paris Agreement] should help increase input of resources to ensure actions on climate change.” He also pointed out that Global laws should respect this swift transformation in climatic changes.

What kind of Social Impact will this have? 

The focus will be to connect villages, and to educate them the value of connectivity, working in a national and international environment, and raising the standards of living all-around.

One of the biggest issues with wiring off-grid villages is ignorance of people. In Bihar, there is a village called Dhranai, where the first-ever green project in India was conducted. But it was said to be a failure because people allegedly chanted in a protest saying, “we want real electricity, not fake electricity!” The success of such a project stems from educating people about the complexity of bringing coal-based electricity from a national grid, and sometimes, to accept the possibility of making do with what is given. Another issue in such a big nation such as India would be the political scenario. Dhranai, a village in the Naxal heartland, cannot root for “real” electricity because the BJP led government at the centre does not want to lose its vote bank in acting against the 400 hundred year power ruler of the place. “Don’t worry; the electricity which you consider the real one will also come to your doorstep in a few days from now,” the then Chief Minister, Nitish Kumar, was seen saying to the protestors to placate them, in stead of giving them the knowledge that this could be a major improvement in the future.

Illustration of Dilemma Triangle

Dilemma
Dilemma Triangle

What are the dilemma questions?

From the tensions derived from the nodes (see the figure), it is possible to list out some of the questions.

The first one would be Socio-economiccan a business investor trust in a business model that would be affordable to the poor, and still make money for himself for sustenance? Could cultural beliefs trump the money-making potential of his business? Could he effectively establish a tourism network without upsetting people? 

Now let’s look at Economic-environmental: will his business destroy the serenity of the village? Could he ever manage to nurture something that could trump the brimming potential that coal contains–cheaper and of extreme pecuniary advantage? Is green energy really worth it?

And of course, lastly, Socio environmental: will his green energy overcome the ignorance of people? How can he educate people that green energy means more jobs, and will eventually overcome the blackouts but not immediately? Will people realize that they might have to adjust to a completely new kind of lifestyle? 

And finally the control node: Galvanization of Youth

I argue that to meet all of these business supporting nodes, one has to find a balance through something that could bring about a win-win in all of these cases. Following are my theory to approach something of such a grand scale:

  1. Government should create a green-energy franchise. And at the lead of such a franchise should be some big-shots like Tata or Mallya. (Alleviate political tensions).
  2. Youth, who are motivated by start-up culture, should be invested in this project. (Invest society into society).
  3. Banks should provide initial capital investment for those who are going to be involved in the start-ups. (Alleviate economic-social tension).
  4. I’m a great believer in the role of media. Some famous actor should campaign this whole thing, making people understand that it’s okay to have some set-backs initially. (Socio-Environmental).
  5. Under the banner of big-shot, financial help may be sought out to developed nations.

What is the right thing to do? 

Prime Minister Modi may have ambitious projects in mind, but his Government cannot go forward without hurting somebody; and a social-impact campaign that does this cannot be sustainable. He has to consider and anticipate issues from all sides, and it is of socio-conduct that in such a complex, inter-woven cultural land such as India, revolutions are not easy to brew. And more importantly, this is an issue that cannot be solved only by political and economic frameworks, but from the society that wants to invests in society, stemmed from an inter-cultural empathy. Those mirror neurons have to kick in making the fact that we take too much for granted sink in–and in a world, where the youth is invested in what Deepika Padukone is wearing or what another man is eating in his own solitude, this a feat that is too far-fetched.

 

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