It was celebration time for the people of Pandri, a village in the Purulia district of West Bengal, illuminated with lightening after years of hassle. The excitement doubled when the village was installed with first solar-powered electricity and also became the first in the country to evolve as a decentralized solar power village.
Like most of rural India, Pandri village, located at the foot of Ayodhya hills, always waited for its share of power supply. The installation has come as a boon to over 80 households, who were earlier heavily dependent on firewood.
“Kerosene is sold at Rs 40 per litre in the market. Now the money will be saved, thanks to the solar lamps. We are really grateful to the solar aid,” said Kasinath Mahata, one of the villagers.
Delivered by the Art of Living, a non-profit organization in Bengal, under the Sri Sri Rural Development Program Trust (SSRDPT), the eco-friendly device has over 72 solar panels covering an area of approximately 2,000 square feet and drawing power from the 1.2 kilo watt solar power grid built in the region.
“Purulia faces severe water scarcity problems. We have installed a solar pump by the dam for easy distribution of water to fields. We have provided solar lamps and fans to 80 households in this village,” said Pallab Halder, a member of the organization.
Cooking has become easier without having to worry about the fuel with the installation of a solar power-run rice hulling machine.
“We have also installed a solar rice hauling machine with which the villagers can break the raw grains to make rice,” Pallab Halder said.
Also, the installation of a 5 HP water pump attached to the nearby dam has made farming more convenient.
“Due to lack of proper irrigational facilities, we couldn’t farm more than once a year. But now, we can increase it to 2-3 times a year. With more farming we will receive more revenue,” said Sambhu Gatwar, a farmer.
“With the solar lamps, it has become easier for us to cook. Our children can wake up at 3 in the morning and study. Also, there is greater availability of drinking water due to the solar pump at the dam,” said Gulachi Rajwar, a housewife.
Executing the plan was a task for the villagers and NGO representatives. Installing a 1.5 kilometre long wire for 72 solar panels was back breaking.
Meanwhile, the solar panel will not only reduce the daily problems of the villagers but will also minimize environmental hazards. The eco-friendly measure is seen as a move to end deforestation, simultaneously cutting down on green house gas emissions.
“The provision of lamps and fans in each household means poisonous gas emission from wood or kerosene will be omitted, thereby relieving women of the smoke hazards. They are receiving clean energy. The rice hauling machine allows them to remove the husk from the raw rice grains. This also helps from the perspective of entrepreneurship,” Subhra Roy said.
The solar panel however comes at a cost. Villagers are required to pay Rs 100 as monthly revenue to ensure its proper maintenance. Self-help groups have been formed to manage the solar lighting, water pump and the rice hulling machine.