Welcome to Dialogues from Facebook, this is our first series. I am joined today with our Energy and Mines Minister, Piyush Goyal.
Facebook as you know is a community for building social connections and for sharing, and we wish each other birthdays all the time. So, today is your happy happy-3, happy 3rd birthday. I also wanted to take this occasion to share with you your report card on Facebook from 2014 up until now. So 2014, you had only 140,000 fans on Facebook, from that you have grown to 2.7 million fans on the platform. During this period, you had more than 11.8 million interactions and the content which you have put out, you have engaged on, the video views of that has been in excess of 19.7 million. So, that’s a whole lot of engagement which you have seen in this period from 2014 up until now.
Q. So, I wanted to ask you what have been your top themes around which you have built people-centric governance and engaged with people on. What have been the top areas that you have talked to people and heard back from them?
Ans. Thank you very much Anki for those statistics, it truly is a platform that all of us love to engage in. Facebook has brought the world closer and it’s always a delight to be on the chats with Facebook. And, I am delighted that you are launching the Dialogues from today, and I wish you all the very best in the years to come.
In terms of my own work, when I became Minister in 2014, there was a mood of despondency around the sectors that came in my charge. We had a perennial problem of availability of coal in the country. Because of that, there was a perennial problem of availability of power and the general sense over almost 7 decades was that India is a coal and power-deficient country, shortages were rampant. Actually, because of those shortages you will be very sorry to know that rather than addressing the problem of availability of domestic coal in abundant number, the country in the past chose the softer option of setting up power plants which are based on imported coal. So, we have 83,100 MW of power plants where I cannot give domestic coal beyond a certain level because they are designed to take only imported coal. And we have reached a situation where as the country move from that despondency to one of surpluses, today, our coal is abundant in supply, power is available for the asking, prices of power have fallen from, at times it used to be Rs 11 and Rs 12 per kilowatt hour, per unit they are down to Rs 3, Rs 2.5 very often, occasionally, Rs 3.30/40.
So, we have really been able to, in this sector, bring back the spirit of comfort. Everybody knows now coal is not an issue, power is not an issue. The huge thrust we have given to renewable energy as a part of Prime Minister Modi and people of India’s commitment to a better future for the kids of tomorrow, for the next generation, has yielded good results.
Last year, we added a record 5,400 MW in wind alone. In solar, in the first 3 years of this government, we have grown by nearly 400%. In terms of our thrust on hydro, we are sorting out all those old projects which were lying stressed, stalled, closed, not being able to be completed for various reasons. We are working project by project to get them back on track. Transmission capacity has increased many-fold, particularly, to southern India, southern India which always was starved of power today has abundant power.
Q. Even eastern India?
Ans. Well, in terms of east, particularly, the northeast parts were neglected all these years. In fact, one of the first decisions after I became Minister was to invest $1.5 billion, nearly Rs 10,000 crore, to expand the transmission grid in Sikkim and Assam, and Arunachal Pradesh. And, we are also focussing to see that now, having almost taken power to every village in the country; you remember Prime Minister Modi setting a 1000-day deadline for these 18,452 villages and they are really in remote corners, some are in Maoist-infected forest areas, some are on the top of mountains. Very often, they even have to carry the transformers and the poles on shoulder or on bullock carts; there is not access to these villages. But we have already completed over 13,500, about a 1000 of them are uninhabited. So, we have about 4000 more villages to reach and the entire country we would have taken power to the nook and corner of India.
I believe that now the task before us is to fulfil Prime Minister Modi’s dream that by 15th August, 2022, when the nation turns 75, we want to make sure that every household in this country is blessed, has enough, sufficient power for meeting his needs. We are working on mission mode on that. On a personal note, we are trying to see if we can do it in the next 2-2.5 years so that by 2019, every child in this country has electricity in his home and we can really see empowerment of the poor.
This government’s focus has been to fulfil the dream of Pandit Deendayal Upadhyay whose birth centenary we are celebrating this year, who had articulated Antyodaya that the nation’s resources should first go to serve the poorest of the poor. And, our effort is that the poorest of the poor, the farmers, the socially marginalized and deprived sections of society, all of them should have access to power, affordable access to power, quality access to power, and more importantly, sustainable access to power.
Q. Yeah, energy access is very important in terms of being an opportunity creator, because I think it kind of opens up avenues for education, and just like quality of life, which is pretty crucial in terms of development of any country. You know, some time back, Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg wrote this community letter, it was very compelling where he talked about different kinds of communities which have to be created in this world. And, he talked about the sensuality of two types of social infrastructure which needs to be built, one is, of course, our current political process where we participate in, voting is a form of that and how do we engage in that and making sure that civic engagement is robust.
The second aspect is really how do citizens of the world participate in collective decision making on important issues, climate change and Paris meeting is an example of that. And, you are in a sense operationalising something, which I consider though you are implementing it in the power sector, I consider this to be India’s strategic shift in foreign policy. I think this is one of the first time when India is hosting the Secretariat of a global institution which is the ISA, which is trying to build global consensus in terms of climate change and energy. So, tell us how has been that experience in terms of operationalising this blueprint for global governance, this is a very important global governance issue?
Ans. Incidentally, I would like to start by complimenting Mr Mark Zuckerberg for the good work that he has done, not only in introducing a powerful platform like Facebook, but also his consciousness towards social causes. Also, the fact that he believes that more and more of the world should get access to digital technologies. And, in some sense, this government’s working resonates very closely with Mr Zuckerberg’s own thinking that every citizen of this country should get connected to the digital world. You will be happy to know that in the last 3 years, this government has taken up digital connectivity on mission mode, and whereas up to 2014, we had only set up 358 kms of fibre optic cable in nearly 3 years that has been expanded to 202,000, it’s 2,02,000+ kms of fibre optic cable that has been laid in a short span of three years. To my mind, a roll up of this scale has not been witnessed anywhere in the world.
So, I would believe that the shared philosophy and thinking of responsible governance where we want to have citizen engagement, where we want to have citizens empowered to be a part of decision making is a shared concern and a shared commitment, both of Prime Minister Modi and Mr Zuckerberg; they discussed it when they met also. And, this government stands committed to greater and greater civic engagement, citizen engagement in our decision-making. You may be aware that in my own Ministries, I have taken out not less than 15 or 17 mobile apps, and all data, pertaining to whatever actions are taken and whatever work is happening is shared on a real time basis with the people of India.
In fact, I personally believe the Right to Information should be automatic; it should not be waiting for somebody to ask us information. And my own philosophy is that I told my officials, anytime you receive an RTI enquiry, the data point sought, put it out in public domain in the website, so that it should not be privileged communication for one person but for the whole world. And, I think it’s been a great experience because we have been held accountable, our work has been monitored by the people of India, by journalists, by the Opposition parties. Very often, I get very good suggestions out of these engagements with the people. This data helps people understand what we are doing, recognise the good work the Modi government has done, and also at times, find out if there are flaws in our work, which we are very happy to appreciate and rectify.
As regards the International Solar Alliance, it’s truly a matter of great pride for India that Prime Minister Modi believes that the time for India to demonstrate its leadership has arrived. Now India will lead the world. We will not necessarily follow the world only. It’s not that the world will have to first design and develop electric vehicles, for example, to scale, and then India will just bring that to India. Now India is looking to provide leadership to that section of business.
On LED lighting, the world today has acknowledged and recognised India’s leadership position where we have scaled up our programme by almost 300 times in less than 2 years to such an extent that now LED prices worldwide have drastically fallen, made it more affordable and the savings that energy efficiency is bringing now to India and gradually, I hope, to the whole world will become a path breaking contributor to the Paris Climate Change Agreement.
The International Solar Alliance is an alliance where Prime Minister Modi has invited 121 countries from around the world who are blessed by the sun, fall between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn. And, we are inviting them, they will all come on one platform, in a sense, to exchange technology, to exchange ideas, to handhold the countries who don’t have a massive scale like India does. For example, our procurement price for solar power, solar energy, has fallen by almost 60 to 65% in the last 2-2.5 years. Wind power procurement has fallen by 40% in the last 4 or 6 months.
In almost every aspect, LED bulbs which we have sold in big scale, the price has fallen by 85%. Now, all of these are benefits which are going straight to the poor of India, to the middle class of India, to the people of India to serve them a better future, meet their requirements at more affordable levels of pricing. And, I think this International Solar Alliance, which will be headquartered in Gurugram, in India, near Delhi, is the first of its kind. Instead of all of us all the time rushing to Vienna and Geneva and New York for multilateral and international engagements, it will be great to have the world come to India and engage with India, learn from India and for India to lead the global solar revolution that’s in the offing.
Q. Yeah, and I think compliments to your government, because I truly think that this is also a great foreign policy initiative in terms of bringing energy security to our region.
Ans. I am sure your viewers and the readers of Facebook will be happy to know, for the first time in the last 3 years, every country in the world has been visited at least once by a Minister of this government. So, across the world, over a 195 countries at least once a Minister of this government, I had to go to far off pacific island countries like Vanuatu and Solomon Islands. It took me two and a half days to just get there. But I tell you it was an eye opener to see what’s happening so far away. It was an eye opener to see countries, which are completely disconnected from the rest of the world, they have no clue what’s happening in the developed world altogether.
So, India has demonstrated and shown that we care for every country, small or big. We have offered our bilateral, and assistance in every sort of way. I just got a call from the Solomon Islands Energy Minister barely a week ago and I have invited him to come to India to discuss how we are going to help them go renewable, go clean energy, how we will help them take up LED lighting so that they can save power. And, particularly, in these island countries, these are very valuable supports that India is offering.
We just had an engagement with the African Development Bank in Gandhinagar. The President of the African Development Bank was so excited that he decided to leave two of his very senior Vice-Presidents to stay back in India, fly in to Delhi after the ADB meetings and engage with us on a twin-track. One – energy, affordable energy access, clean energy access and the growth of renewables in Africa. And, second, to help Africa on financial inclusion and the digital economy, taking BHIM app possibly to Africa, because they realise that the scale and speed with which Indian government in the last 3 years has implemented these programmes could be a game-changer for all of Africa.
Q. One very interesting thing, which we saw on our platform, is that even after demonetization announcement and the different points of view in terms of how effective or the way it was managed or how effective it was or it was not effective. Prime Minister Modi added multiple of millions of followers post-demonetization. I also wanted to understand that you all did undertake, like every part of government did undertake huge grassroots activation to go out to people and explain what digital – because this was a huge structural change moment in the country for people. And, therefore, behavioural change had to be effectuated. Do you want to share about that experience that what is the kind of community engagement which you all did during that time?
Ans. Ma’m, at that point of time, while one section of society, particularly, the opposition and some section of media, tried to show the entire demonetization exercise as one which was ill-conceived or was causing inconvenience to the public. I think they fail to read the mood of the nation. They fail to understand that the people of India are willing to bear a little hardship for the longer term good of this nation. In fact, there was that little Whatsapp message I received at that point of time, and I believe Whatsapp also is a part of the Facebook properties. I received this message where a young girl, looked like a college going girl, was holding a placard in her hand, and I will say it in Hindi since that is what was written – कि आपको demonetization के बाद queue में खड़े होने में परेशानी हो रही है तो सोचिये प्रधानमंत्री मोदी जी को देश बदलने में कितनी परेशानी हो रही होगी |
I don’t know, it was a very telling point that, you know, just standing in a queue for a few hours seen like a nightmare or a difficulty. So, imagine a leader who’s got to change the entire mindset, the way the government and governance was in this country for decades and decades, to change that entire story is not an easy task. It’s a journey. And, in fact, yesterday, Mr Michael Porter from the Harvard Business School was gushing with compliments about the work that this government has done in three years, and he also said that to transform an economy and take the reform path is something that don’t happen in 2 or 3 or 5, or 10 years also. It takes decades to change the destiny of a billion people.
But, having said that, demonetization was not only a huge step against black money and corruption, but it was also about digital engagement with the large section of society, which while we had got them financially included with bank accounts, 283 million bank accounts under Jan Dhan Yojana, but who were also yearning to be connected to the digital age. At the same time, if GST has to be successful, the Goods and Services Tax, obviously, we need the informal economy to come into the formal economy.
And, demonetization gave a big thrust to encourage people to come into the formal economy. Prime Minister Modi is on record where he said, look, the government will not do a postmortem of the past, please join the formal economy. All those who were used to evading taxes, who were not probably recognizing their incomes, who were not probably showing their records or turnovers – please come into the formal economy. As more and more people come into the formal economy and tax revenues are more, we will be able to serve the poor of India better. We will be able to serve the socially and otherwise marginalized sections of society much better. We will be able to do more for the women of India, for the youth of India, and in fact, in some interactions with traders and I had a lot of interaction across the country, as you rightly pointed out, going to smaller towns, going to cities, meeting people, explaining what demonetization is all about – the multifarious benefits the labour will get, for example. Now, with labour having bank accounts, their minimum wages are assured, their social security, provident fund is assured, their healthcare is assured.
You will be happy to know, just under Employees’ State Insurance Corporation (ESIC), which gives 100% healthcare benefits to workers, not necessarily permanent workers, even for contractual workers. We have expanded that base by 10 million families in the last one year. So, there is a huge tectonic shift in the thinking of this country that demonetization has brought about. Fortunately, the people of India are smart. They understood and they saw that this Prime Minister is trustworthy. He is doing good for the nation. And, they rejected the criticism that some opposition and some media sought to almost force down the throat of this country, but were rejected by the people of India.
Q. And, digital transactions is also picking up is what we are reading and seeing also, and it’s a successful effort. Now, coming back to the starting point of civic engagement which is a political process, two principles which I have seen playing out a lot and I think this is partly in terms of the way our social fabric and the social infrastructure operates. And, this is fundamental again to having voice. I think they are two fundamental principles. One consideration is in any relationship and that also extends to governed and the governing process, right, is do I have voice in the decision making, do I have voice in this relationship or not, that’s point no.1.
Point no.2, I think the second principle is that no relationship can survive a grudge match, so what we did is to allow for that participation we had sought for a lot of questions on our platform. And, we got a bunch of questions when we announced you are live on Facebook. I am going to run through those questions because we want to make sure that that their voice, the will of the people is represented to you and people get to hear from you directly. And, also make sure that there is no grudge match because people have not been heard.
So, there is Manvi Singh. Your question made it to the list in terms of one of the questions which we will ask the Minister. So Manvi Singh’s question is, what is the Ministry of Power doing to ensure that power plants meet the deadline set under the new environmental regulations? Tariff progress so far reflects that maybe MoP doesn’t care, do we look forward to mass litigations?
Ans. Very good question, Manvi. Thank you very much for engaging and for being such a concerned citizen. I can assure you, protecting the environment and leaving behind a better planet for all of you in the next generation is our commitment, is our priority. The new guidelines that the Ministry of Environment and Forests has come out with for pollutants like carbon dioxide, sulphur, etc. have very tight time schedules. And if you will try and change the entire 200,000 MW of power plants in this tight time schedule, you know, we would have to almost shut off power for the whole country. So, I think at the stage when MoEF was finalizing this, while my Ministry did engage with them and tried to explain to them that there is not enough manufacturing capacity to be able to replace or put in Flue Gas Dispensers, the FGDs and other equipment required to reduce the pollution levels in such a short period of time. I think this was brought out to at least sensitize the entire power sector that this will have to be done.
I am delighted that the entire industry has risen to it; they have all started making plans. We also have to see how many plants at a time the nation can take as shutdown to retrofit the plants with FGDs and other equipment. It will have to be a phased programme so that it does not disrupt 24×7 power supply to you and to the people of India. It will also have to calibrate the manufacturing capacity for Flue Gas Dispensers and other equipment that are required for this retrofitting.
So, the Central Electricity Authority is working with the Ministry of Environment with the stakeholders, i.e. states, the power utilities, the transmission companies to see where alternate arrangements can be made when plants take a major shutdown for this, and to ensure that we implement this new regime while at the same time ensure uninterrupted 24/7 power for all.
Q. So, a few more questions from our Facebook community. There is one question from Priya Kulkarni, and her question is, she has asked a lot of things but one point which really stood out was – your pitch on job creation by Energy department is very less, any government push or plan to retain coal workforce for green energy?
Ans. Thank you Priya. I think it’s great to see young children these days, youngsters being so much concerned about the environment and going right down to worrying about the coal industry. Well, as far as the coal industry per se is concerned, clearly, we need to for some more years to come use coal-based thermal power. More so, because the nation needs a base load and renewable energy is fed into the system once you have a base load. And for India, since coal is our domestic raw material, we have a lot of coal-based power plants.
Having said that, I am doing a relook at all the coalmines to see which are the coalmines where mining activity is either inefficient, and more importantly, unsafe, so that I can close those coalmines and retrain and retool these workmen. And, Coal India Limited for this year, of course, has a plan to set up 1000 MW of solar based power plants. But in the larger perspective, the Coal India plan is to go as much as 20,000 MW of solar power plants. We are also examining if we can do some wind-based plants, but unfortunately, the areas where coal mines are located, we don’t find much wind power generation capability.
So, probably, the larger focus will be on solar plants. Also, we are looking at processing all the mine water that comes out to make sure that that mine water goes to serve for the drinking needs of the local villagers, is recharged into the ground after processing, so it doesn’t damage the soil quality. It’s given into the, discharged into the rivers after processing, so that the rivers don’t get polluted. So, the Coal India is looking at environment in a very holistic manner.
You will be happy to know that we have done thousands and thousands of acres of plantations of trees and greenery in the mined-out areas, which are no more needed for mining. I am very soon going to be coming out with a mobile app where through satellite imagery, we will be showing and making available to all of you in public domain all the work that has happened to green the coal mining areas, so that you can (a) draw satisfaction, (b) if I am not telling the right thing, you can pick holes in it and help me do my work better.
Q. Yeah, absolutely, community policing! There is one more question which is a very interesting one from Kuldeep Gyaneshwar. So, Kuldeep your time, because your question got picked up of the lot. So, his question is sir, the government claims that a large number of villages have been electrified in the last 3 years. Can your Ministry disclose the per capita electricity consumption three years back and the status today in rural areas?
Ans. Sure, in fact, this is in public domain. Every one of the villages that we reach out to, we declare it in public domain. You kindly go through an app called ‘Garv’. It’s on Gramin Vidyutikaran (rural electrification), where every village with name, photographs and through Google map you can go right up to that village, is shown. Also, in that now we have started mapping the villages where intensive electrification is going on, so that more and more hamlets and the areas surrounding the village can get covered. And, you will be happy to know, now we are also capturing household data, how the households have got electrified on a weekly, daily, monthly basis. So, there is a lot of data out there which is available for all of you to check.
We have also done an impact analysis to check after we have taken electricity to these villages, what is the change? About 5000 of the 13,500 villages we electrified over the last two years have been picked up for impact analysis, and that data is also given in the Garv app. As regards the per capita consumption, it’s grown by about 5% in each of the three years, electricity demand has grown up by about 6.5%. Potential demand which would have otherwise been there but we have been able to save through our energy efficiency initiatives, particularly, LED lighting, energy efficient fans, energy efficient pumps, and now we are launching motors. That would have otherwise added another 3% growth to power demand. So, instead of 9.5, we have been able to restrict it at 6.5 while still meeting the needs of the people. But, then when you take the population growth into account, roughly about 5% growth in per capita consumption. So, we are at about 1100 units right now per capita, the nation as a whole.
Having said that, we will also have to appreciate that a lot of that goes in for industry and agriculture, and other commercial needs. So, on human consumption per se, the figure is much lower and I am sure as there is more economic prosperity, as the incomes of our families increase, as people have more proper shelter over their head, as we achieve our affordable housing for all target by 2022, this electricity consumption at the domestic level will also increase substantially.
Q. So, that’s a, I think Kuldeep if you have further questions you should post on your page and you will figure out a way to get back, because I think this is a very…….
Ans. We reply to everybody who puts in a question to us. You can send me a mail. You can post on the Facebook page. We are happy to engage with people. In fact, I am happy to visit college campuses, and if Facebook Dialogues wants to facilitate that we will be delighted to go into college campuses. In fact, over the next 20 days, we are going go the length and breadth of the country, Ministers will be out on the field, Members of Parliament, State governments which are run by the BJP or other NDA partners. We will all be out in the field. We will all be going to talk to the people about the work that’s happened. We will be having Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas Sammelans across the country to tell the people about what has happened in the last 3 years.
We are also taking a innovative programme, it’s a making of Developed India festival where we are going to go into the different district centres for 3 days at a time and where we will be sharing what work has been done and also taking feedback from the local population who comes there. There will be engagement possibilities. There will be possibilities to meet with government officials, give your suggestions, give your ideas, which will then get flagged on to us.
And, of course, finally there are two more modes of reaching out to anybody in the government right up to the Prime Minister. We have the Narendra Modi app on which the Prime Minister takes personal interest. It really is a very very powerful tool for those of you who would like to know more about government schemes, government programmes, what the government is launching, what ways are there for you to benefit from all the government work.
And, you have the Mygov platform on which you can post your queries, you can give your feedback, you can give your ideas, suggestions. Both these platforms are truly expanding citizen engagement to never before levels in this country, possibly never before levels anywhere in the world.
Q. In Facebook, we say feedback is a gift, that’s what we say. I have one last question, since we are staying with this culture of daily accountability which is what technologies such as Facebook and other social media platforms have brought in, and the internet in particular. So, there is something which has been trending on our platform for the last couple of days and something which I personally am acutely interested in. There has been one government policy which has been intensely problematic, which has led to a whole lot of anxiety. What is your message to lakhs of CBSE students who are waiting for the results and they don’t know when the final date of the exam results are going to be?
Ans. I think the honorable HRD Minister, Mr Prakash Javadekar has been on record yesterday that they will very soon be coming out with the dates of the same. So, I think we can give him a couple of days.
Q. What is your message to the students who are dealing with this anxiety, the exam anxiety?
Ans. Well, actually you know last night, my daughter who is down from the United States and, unfortunately, I have not been able to spend much time with her due to my preoccupation with government work, was with me. And, we sat down and watched the 3 Idiots, the movie of Aamir Khan and Madhavan, which Raju Hirani and Vidhu Vinod Chopra had brought out a few years ago. We saw it till 3.30 in the night. And after the movie got over, my daughter and I engaged a lot. She is also a college-going student like all of you in the second year of college, Undergrad.
And, really, that movie is an eye-opener for all parents. It’s an eye-opener for society. And, I think any of the students or parents who are feeling anxious should first of all get the anxiety out of the way, maybe go and watch a movie or watch a movie on Facebook if it’s available in their library and just chill out. I mean life is not going to end.
Obviously, the results will come out soon. The date will be known in a couple of days or if not earlier. And, the exams are over. The results will come out. After the results come out, you will make your path in life. You will go towards your next journey. In fact, if at all there is a little bit of a delay, in my days in school and college, if there was a exam getting cancelled for some… those days we used to have a lot of strikes and what not have you. It is always a joyous occasion.
So, I think please rest. Don’t be anxious. I am trying to belittle your anxiety. I am only trying to assuage your anxiety. Take it easy. The world moves on. The journey moves on. This little delay is unfortunate but certainly will get sorted out very soon. So, just chill out, relax, be happy.
Q. So, this is an assurance that there will be a date, which will be announced very soon. I know this is something which is agonizing a lot of people. We are seeing this as a dominant discussion definitely on our platform. I personally am very anxious, because I have Class 12th examinee at home, my son.
Ans. May I just one more thing? You know, recently I read somewhere; a problem is a problem only until a solution is found. So this is really something where the solution has just, it’s on the anvil. So, really it’s not a problem. Please don’t worry about it.
Q. So on that note, but also there is a design flaw in terms of policy making, which hopefully, people will take that feedback who have constructed this policy of coming out with the moderation post-examination. And, there is a whole lot of educationists and teachers, students have views on that. So, just as feedback, proper consultation process is in terms of ………..
Ans. I fully appreciate that. But, change always has some difficulties. And, I think if we don’t change, we will never be able to improve things in India. So, like you supported demonetization, it was a big change in the mindset, in the way India works in the future. So many other things we have done which have changed the way India works.
After all, today nobody discusses power shortages. Today, nobody has to worry that power will become hugely expensive. You can see the game-changing things that are happening on the taxation front. GST is a change which is, obviously, also going to cause some anxiety and some difficulties. But the nation today stands resolutely behind Prime Minister Modi, they want this kind of bold and decisive government and leadership. And, I think they support the change that we are trying to bring in. Since our intentions are noble, are pure, are clean. I think the people are happy that there is somebody who is willing to bite the bullet and bring about improvement in this country.