‘Fully’ electrified Darjeeling
Come Saturday, Darjeeling will be “100 per cent electrified”, 123 years after India’s first hydel project was commissioned in Sidrapong here in 1897 by then Bengal acting lieutenant-governor Charles Cecil Stevens.
The Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) will inaugurate a power project for Gorkhay and Samanden, two villages on the fringes of Singalila National Park, which still lack roads and can be reached only via a two-hour trek from Ramman after a three-hour drive from Darjeeling town.
Surendra Gupta, GTA principal secretary, will visit Gorkhay to inaugurate the project. Arijit Mitra, executive director, GTA (power) said: “With this, entire rural electrification will be done (in the GTA area).”
In 2013, the Centre sanctioned Rs 198.98 crore to the GTA for rural electrification under Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojana, later renamed Deendayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana.
The GTA chipped in funds for villages that could not be brought under the ambit of the central scheme. “The funds for the project being inaugurated tomorrow (Saturday) were provided by the GTA. The project cost for these two villages was Rs 1.1 crore,” said Bimal Pradhan, GTA (power) superintending engineer. “Rural electrification in all 188 mouzas (under GTA) is now complete. Darjeeling will be 100 per cent electrified.”
Sixty-six households in these two villages — with a population of a little over 200 — fall on the Phalut-Rimbick trek route. Most villagers are farmers or trekking guides. Horses and ponies are a popular mode of transport to these villages.
Darjeeling’s tryst with electricity started with the Sidrapong hydel project, commissioned on November 10, 1897, by then Bengal acting lieutenant-governor Charles Cecil Stevens.
It is the country’s oldest hydel power plant.
Located 12km from Darjeeling at an altitude of 3,600 feet, it still generates 0.6MW electricity a day, fed by three streams, Barbata, Hospital and Kotwali.