JORABAT, Feb 14 - Erratic supply of power even after so many years of the country’s Independence still remains a big problem in many rural pockets of Assam.
Realising the magnitude of the problem, the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE), Government of India, in December 2016, took up the ‘70 Lakh Solar Study Lamps Scheme’ to provide access to affordable and environmentally sustainable illumination to help in education of rural students.
The programme targets areas/blocks where household electricity connection is less than 50 per cent in Assam, Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh and Odisha.
IIT Bombay and Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL) are implementing the project to distribute the solar lamps at subsidised rates among students of underserved communities in rural areas of the selected states. Assam State Rural Livelihood Mission (ASRLM) is also associated with the project at the State level.
A positive impact of the scheme could be seen during a visit to Basorang village about 50 km from the Assam Secretariat at Dispur. Earlier, the villagers of Basorang used to face erratic supply of electricity. Now their problem has been mitigated after they got the solar lamps.
After the solar lamps came into the scene at the schools, students in rural areas are no more dependent on kerosene lamps and are getting the benefit of solar energy, which is cheap and eco-friendly, for continuing with their studies even during evening hours.
Lakhi Rongpi (30), a mother of three daughters informed about her changed lifestyle as she now does not have to depend on erratic power supply but does her work and sees her daughters studying under the light of the solar lamp.
Till date around 43 lakh solar lamps have been distributed across the selected states, with over 3.82 lakh distributed in Assam. The assembly and distribution centre at Dimoria has already assembled over 34,000 kits, thus achieving 93 per cent of its target.
The programme is being implemented in 21 blocks of the State, where the programme initially had a target of distributing 5.37 lakh lamps. The same has now increased to 8.02 lakh. Out of these, 4.55 lakh lamps have been assembled and 3.82 lakh distributed already.
The programme covers 20,000 villages in approximately 325 blocks spread across 49 districts in the five states. The objective of the scheme is to generate livelihood and curb dependence on kerosene among the most marginalised communities.
EESL procures all the components for the lamps and sends them to assembly and distribution centres, where the lamps are assembled, tested and distributed by local women. Apart from benefiting the schools and students in rural communities, the scheme has also enabled employment of 5,035 people, including 3,838 women, across the five states. As many as 10 women work at each of the 130 assembly centres across the country, assembling a total of 30,000 lamps every day. Altogether 537 people have been trained at the assembly and distribution centres in Assam out of whom 508 are women.
Deepali Bordoloi, a distributor while talking to newsmen, said that this platform has given a sense of pride and respect to the women like her, as they have been able to support their families economically.
“Earlier I had to depend on my husband for my expenses, but now as I am earning a satisfactory amount through this, I have been able to enrol my son in a good private school,” she said.
By assembling and distributing the lamps, the women are earning around Rs 4000-Rs 6000 per month, which gives them confidence as they can now contribute to their household income along with gaining skill development.
The essence of the programme is ‘localisation of solar energy’, wherein solar study lamps will be assembled, distributed, repaired and maintained by rural people, thus expanding the potential for livelihood generation at the local level. Moreover, localisation gives an impetus to the rural economy through skill-generation and capacity-building.
An EESL official informed that the women who have been trained to assemble and repair the lamps will soon open S-Mart or solar shops that will create awareness about the use of solar energy, besides selling solar equipment.