Prime Minister Narendra Modi has vowed that every home in India will have electricity by December 2018 as he moves to shore up voter support amid doubts over his handling of the economy.
The $2.5 billion scheme announced Monday would see the country’s 40 million households without electricity linked up to power for free.
“Forty million of the total 250 million households still don’t have power, which means 25 percent of people are living in the 18th century. The government will electrify every household, whether it’s in a village, city or a remote region,” Modi said in a speech.
Political analysts have called the initiative another move by the right-wing prime minister to bolster rural support ahead of national elections in 2019.
Recent economic trends have been worrying, with official statistics showing India’s growth slowed to 5.7 percent in the first quarter.
Many economists have linked this to the cancellation of more than 80 percent of banknotes in November last year and the introduction of a national goods and services tax in July.
Modi has repeatedly linked his electricity announcement and similar initiatives, such as his 2015 promise to bring power to 18,452 villages without electricity, to the Indian government’s concern for the welfare of the poor.
The latest government data suggests that fewer than 3,000 villages are still waiting for a power supply.
Per capita electricity consumption in the world’s fastest-growing major economy is barely one third of the global average.
The new scheme could face hurdles from India’s often hostile rural terrain and cash-strapped power distribution companies in some states.