GOALPARA, May 19 - As darkness descends, life in the remote and inaccessible Hajua Char part-I, an islet on river Brahmaputra inhabited by Bengali Muslims under Lakhipur development block, comes to a grinding halt as families struggle to carry out basic household chores under darkness.
The problem with Hajua Char part-I is that it is not connected by road and the only way to that place is a boat ride of about 8 km from Sonari ghat near Lakhipur. As the village is on an island, on-grid household connection is not possible, but the Goalpara district administration under Deputy Commissioner Varnali Deka came up with an ingenious plan and accomplished the near-impossible task of providing 64 solar lights through solar standalone systems in the village under Saubhagya scheme in December 2018.
The solar lights have brought cheers and changes to the lives of 60 households in the area. The lifestyle of these families of Hajua char part -I has greatly improved after the arrival of the solar lights, which were distributed free of cost by the government.
These households can now light up their homes, getting uninterrupted power supply from the solar panels set up on their houses. A silent revolution has come about as televisions and mobiles are helping some of these households to expand their horizons.
Also, with the introduction of these solar lamps, life is gradually changing as womenfolk stay after sundown to complete their household chores and work in the evening, giving added security and increase in income. The children have started studying during the nights. The villagers are now planning to generate more power for irrigation.
Also, the area remains submerged due to flooding in the monsoons for up to 3-4 months in the year and round-the-clock off-grid solar lights, which go beyond basic lighting services, will definitely play a vital role in taking of precautions during emergencies, especially for rescue and relief operations and in protection of lives and property during floods. As char areas remain isolated, deprived and backward regions, communication and awareness regarding various government schemes was a daunting task, but peoples’ access to mobile internet facilities and television with the introduction of electricity has made all of it a lot easier. Solar electricity also helped the villagers to gradually overcome deprivation of all basic needs like education, health, agriculture development, food security and awareness have been raised with respect to dowry, child marriage, gender based violence and restrictions on women.
Raijek Ali (42) from the Hajua Char part-I said that he could hardly think of electricity in their sandy and remote char areas and now some of these people have started watching television, using fans and LED bulbs, charging mobile handsets and children are studying at nights.
Talking to this correspondent, Deputy Commissioner Varnali Deka, while expressing her happiness on the status of implementation of the Suabhagya scheme in the district, said that the district administration and APDCL have to overcome many challenges while implementing the programme due to remoteness of the areas, difficulty in access like topography comprising hilly terrain, backwardness of the region and bad road connectivity, non-availability of adequate materials in the district, prevailing weather condition and so on. In certain areas, the administration has to face ‘right of way’ in drawal of lines, resistance of demands, inaccessible riverine char areas etc. But the district administration took some innovative measures for overcoming these challenges like organising awareness meetings, innovative IEC activities, steps taken to resolve social issues and preparation of a time-bound action plan. She informed that a total of 97,834 on-grid connections and 64 off-grid connections have been given to rural households under the Saubhagya scheme.
Further, Deka said supplying non-grid electricity in the form of solar standalone system in char areas, which are detached from the mainland, has empowered the community in myriad ways by uplifting their lifestyle, by providing small scale power in their homes and opening new vistas for opportunities for people engaged in trade and commerce thereby lifting their socio-economic status, apart from them using electric and other electronic appliances at home.
These downtrodden people can now have better access to modern amenities and are becoming aware about child marriage, domestic violence and dowry, maternal and child health, malnutrition and other social issues. On the other hand, these remote char areas will gradually be able to access and benefit from all the government’s socially beneficial programmes, Deka added.