CUTS CRC undertook a study to asses the impact of electrification on the socio-economic fabric of rural West Bengal. The study was done across 6 districts of the state, viz. Malda, Murshidabad, Nadia, Midnapur, Purulia and North 24 Parganas. The main objective was to gain a holistic understanding of the how the process of electrification has impacted the socio-economic fabric, agriculture, education, availability of basic services & amenities, and also what avenues for improvement are left unexplored with respect to electrification in rural Bengal. The study was done on behalf of the Department of Power & NES, Government of West Bengal, with support from KPMG Advisory Services.
The districts were selected on the basis their HDI ranks and the status of electrification. Different categories of districts were selected ranging from the more advanced district( e.g. North 24 Parganas) to the backward districts( e.g. Purulia, Malda) so as to arrive at a picture that is representative of the whole state of West Bengal.
At least four mauzas were studied from each of the districts. The study used both quantitative and qualitative tools that included Questionnaire Survey, Key Informant Interviews and Focus Group Discussions. Respondents from varied stakeholder groups including farmer groups, self help groups, women, local business enterprises, representatives of local government, schools teachers, medical practitioners, health centre workers, etc were interviewed to gain a holistic understanding of the impact that electrification has had on the different areas and parameters of rural life. The study additionally covered issues more specific to electricity like quality of service, affordability of tariff; redressal of grievance, etc. More than 1200 rural households, around 30 small & medium commercial enterprises, a number of educationalists, medical practitioners and health workers were interviewed in course of the study.
The findings of the study show that even though electrification seems to have positively affected rural life, both in terms of standard of living and commerce, many other enabling factors like road infrastructure, better access to various government schemes, health services, drinking water, education, etc. are needed to capitalise on the opportunities that are created with access to electricity.