If knowledge is power, clarity of mind in an age of infinite distractions is no less than a blessing. Execution of Punjab Solarisation Project in a short span of one year by energy department is a living example of the latter. It’s been almost a year since I started working as Minister to energy department, Government of the Punjab. I can very vividly recall my first briefing on matters that I would be dealing with in the department in the months to follow. One of the agendas that struck my mind with profound intensity during this orientation session was “solarisation for schools in Punjab”.

When I dug deep into it, I was both; happy and sad at the same time. I was happy because the expected outcome of the project made my day. The project meant to provide uninterrupted electricity supply to some 15000 primary schools including 30% schools for girls mostly in Sothern Punjab. That means, higher literacy rate, congenial environment for studies and decrease in drop out ratio. Approximately, 1.2 million students were to benefit from it. Roses and roses all the way! I told myself. The very thought of providing a source of energy that would ultimately enlighten the young minds left me over joyed and satisfied. It all seemed great until the next slide on the projector.

The next slide on the projector revealed that nothing concrete was done to execute it. It was a classic case of negligence by the previous regime. It left me highly disappointed and sad. The project was supported by Asian Development Bank (ADB).The bank had approved a Disbursement Link Indicators (DLIs) based loan of US $ 83.69 million under Access to Clean Energy Investment Program and Punjab Government in order to live up to the loan agreement should have taken it seriously. But, who cares when you have convinced the masses by running massive media campaigns for self-projection and positioning yourself as the self- proclaimed Khadim-e- Aala out of national exchequer. One can only mourn such mentality.

Moving forward, as we have almost completed one year in office under the sagacious and contained leadership of CM Punjab, Mr. Usman Buzdar, I in my humble capacity as Minister Energy prioritized the solarisation project, took it out of the cold storage, fast tracked it and put it on speedy execution. As I write these lines, some 4000, schools have been provided with the solar facility including installation of energy efficient fans and light bulbs. In the first phase, we are determined to convert some 10,861 primary schools by the end of December this year. A priority has been given to schools located in off-grid areas including some 1794 of those schools that have never had access to electricity during the last 73 years.

The second phase will involve solarisation of another 5400 schools for rest of northern and central Punjab. Similarly, over 2000 Basic Health Units (BHUs) from all over the province will also be converted into Hybrid Solar PV system. The latter would benefit one lac sixty eight thousand patients every day over the year. Once this is done, we plan to convert public sector universities, colleges, hospitals and other public sector buildings on solar energy.

In the end, I strongly believe that people’s government must work for the betterment of its people and not for vested interests. No doubt, the first year in office has been a challenging on for the government on every count but as they say “difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations”. The course has been set for a better Pakistan. A Naya Pakistan.

The author is Minister for Energy in Punjab Cabinet. He can be reached on Twitter at @PunjabEnergy

As I write these lines, some 4000, schools have been provided with the solar facility including installation of energy efficient fans and light bulbs.