On Monday, the Congress party alleged a Rs 20,000 crore nationwide scam in the procurement of LED bulbs in the Centre’s UJALA (Unnat Jyoti with Affordable LEDs for All) programme. As reported by Economic Times, Congress Spokesperson Shaktisinh Gohil claimed that the LED bulbs procurement violates Supreme Court and Vigilance Commission guidelines. Complaining of complete lack of transparency, Gohil alleged that the LED bulbs procured are of “substandard” quality from China and Taiwan.
Energy Efficiency Services Ltd (EESL) has released an official note refuting these allegations and has called them false, misguided, and lacking any factual basis. EESL has stated that the government’s domestic and street lighting LED programmes, UJALA and SLNP, follows all CVC and CAG guidelines, and the procurement process is conducted in the most transparent manner through e-procurement. LED bulbs procured for the UJALA programme undergo the strictest 3-tier quality check mechanism. The government has not kept any details of the scheme hidden, and all data from sale statistics to quality checks is available in the public domain on ujala.gov.in and the UJALA app. Contrary to Congress’s allegation that the LED bulbs are “substandard”, the fault rate is the lowest in the world – being below 1% in a programme distributing more than 22.1 crore LEDs.
Huge cost savings due to transparent e-bidding has become the norm in all CPSUs (Central Public Sector Undertakings) of Ministries of Coal, Power, and Renewable Energy ever since the Narendra Modi government took charge. From the historic coal auctions to the record low solar tariffs, the ministries under Shri Piyush Goyal have demonstrated how the highest level of transparency can deliver enormous cost savings for the people.
The UJALA LED programme is helping citizens save Rs. 11,508 crore annually in their electricity bills, while the bulbs are available at the reduced price of around Rs. 70 nationwide, which is 30% of the prices three years ago. The 88% fall in LED bulbs procurement price has been possible precisely because the government’s process of procurement was made transparent. Leveraging economies of scale, the UJALA programme was able to engage suppliers in competitive bidding, which enabled stricter quality parameters to be brought in and yet lower prices were discovered through the transparent e-bidding process.
Refuting Congress’s charge that bulbs are being procured from China, the official note states that only those bidders are allowed to participate who have manufacturing facilities in India. As a result, the UJALA programme has in fact led to increase in manufacturing capacity to about 3-4 crore LED bulbs every month, from about 1-2 lakh three years ago. The programme is a ‘Make in India’ success story as it has made India the fastest growing LED market in the world, accounting for 12% of the global demand. By encouraging energy efficient lifestyles, the UJALA programme is cutting 23 million tonnes of CO2 emissions annually, thereby contributing to eco-friendly living while at the same time saving public money.
The procurement policy in which Congress is trying to find faults, has been endorsed by international agencies like Germany’s KfW, France’s AFD, and Asian Development Bank, which is providing funds to EESL. Where Congress sees a scam, the world sees a path-breaking effort by India, with the International Energy Agency (IEA) publishing a case study on the success of the UJALA programme.
The Centre’s LED schemes show how a government company like EESL can outperform expectations and take on ambitious goals like replacing India’s 770 million incandescent lights with LED. This also proves that citizens will embrace eco-friendly lifestyles when schemes deliver benefits directly to the people. Crafted to be self-sufficient instead of depending on subsidies, the UJALA programme is an example of good governance with good economics. By making transparency and probity the hallmark of its functioning, the UJALA scheme encapsulates the mantras which dictate the working of the Narendra Modi government.