How does it feel to imagine our cities without electricity? Imagine your neighborhood getting enveloped by darkness as the day starts setting on you! Suddenly, the outside space becomes unavailable for any use and you are compelled to contain yourselves within your domestic walls. A sense of confinement in the inside and a fear of the outside surround you because of the growing darkness.
The very thought of it is shuddering. That’s the plight of an estimated 300 million Indians— a quarter of the population, mostly the rural poor. In today’s time, a need as basic as electricity is an elusive fantasy for these people.
They’re not left completely in the dark. Kerosene lamps provide light. Cow dung patties provide fuel for cooking. But these options take a toll on time and health. Such is the ironical paradox where on one side, urban India is witnessing exorbitant levels of increase in energy consumption, while on the other side – an electric bulb is yet to become a reality for a large number of the rural populace.
One of these households belonged to an elderly couple Sarju Nayak and Availi Nayak, residents of Lakhanpura village in Madhya Pradesh. They had been enduring darkness for the longest time until recently when a joint initiative between Indo-Global Social Service Society & HDFC Bank’s Holistic Rural Development Program- Parivartan lit their house through solar power.
‘Living without electricity is like being blind,” said 70-year old Availi whose life comes to standstill soon after the sunsets. “We move around without light and cook without being able to see. Even in the day it is the middle of the night.” She said.
However, with this intervention, they were able to experience light in their small hut after living in darkness all their lives.
The enthralling part was that it was a participatory and inclusive project in which local bodies and organizations like the Village Development Committee and a women group called Bhaitidev joined hands in generating funds and garnering support for the solar lighting project.
One of the most progressive facets of this project is its negligible environmental and ecological impact while providing a valuable community service in the form of growth, development, and empowerment. It was worthwhile to be the witness of the Nayak family after the ‘lighting up’; their faces gleaming with radiant smiles and a sense of esoteric happiness surrounding the entire family in their celebration of the ‘light’.
On top of it, they will also receive old-age pension and will be covered under the food security scheme. What will sound like an icing on the cake is, that their house will be repaired with contribution from the community, before the rainy season itself.
This much-needed programme has shown fantastic outcomes already. But the journey has just begun and the way ahead is long and arduous; we nevertheless, are hopeful and buoyant about this cause. If in all, we all understand the notion that the poor aren’t looking for sympathy but partners. Together, if we intend, we can certainly make this world a better place to live for.