The night-life begins for a tribal village

The era of light-night has begun as a tribal village about 25 km southwest of Bhubaneswar becomes the first village in the state to be powered entirely by solar energy. rn
The night-life begins for a tribal village

The ‘Solar’ itself being so huge, gigantic and magnificent has now turned to nutshell in the form of solar powered energy – the most popular key phrases we hear nowadays. It seems that everywhere we go we hear about people wishing to save the environment. This is an excellent thing, and luckily we have the kind of advances in technology that enable us to do something as amazing as harnessing energy from the sun.

Approximately 45 percent of people in India are hooked up to a power grid and endure daily power failures. Those without grid access must often walk long distances to buy a few liters of expensive kerosene, which can be scarce because much of it is traded on the black market as an illegal way to dilute fuel and diesel.

“Kerosene used by the poor for lighting is often unaffordable, unavailable, unsafe and unhealthy, while the electricity power grid is unreliable,” explains a middle-aged daily worker Lal Ranjan Kumar, who returns home with Rs 250 everyday to sustain five member in his family.

Technologically empowered rural India

Nothing can be more beautiful than to witness the rural parts of India getting technological advance. A life-changing demarcation by a very small tribal village of Baripatha, Odisha made a history by becoming the first village in the state to be powered entirely by solar energy.

The transition happened on October 2, the birth-anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. This changed the life of nearly 350 villagers and inspired the entire nation for this leap.

The solar power project costed around Rs 7 lakh and was co-funded by ECCO Electronics (a solar products manufacturer) and Jakson Group (a diversified power solutions provider).

Naturally, a technology so amazing does not come without a price. One of the biggest problems with solar power is that it is rather costly to set up. The price of solar panels is not cheap, and would usually call for one to be rather wealthy, or at least have the ability to take out a loan to purchase them.

However, it is not all doom and gloom, many solar projects elsewhere in the country have floundered and failed, but Baripatha is different. Its model is low-cost, low-maintenance and community-owned – elements that are missing in other solar-powered projects.

The man behind this initiative IPS officer Joydeep Nayak describes that the solar power station can be used wisely in the rest part of the state with minimum expenses and could provide power to nearly 4,000 villages.

Further describing Anivash Joshi, Electromechanical Engineer states that most countries’ governments have subsidised the cost of the installation of solar panels. “This means that you will get a portion back of your money spent on the panels. Furthermore, you have to think about how much money you are going to save yearly on electricity bills if you install solar panels. Sure, you may be paying an amount back every month for the panels if you took out a loan for them, but overall you will land up saving a lot more money than you are spending.”

Call it a blessing or magic. The real happiness is what is seen. The Baripatha village is all glittered and decked as if celebrating Deepavali everyday. The villagers haven’t seen much of lights in their village ever before like this. The area is lite with individual solar units with two lamps in each of the village’s 61 households, along with a central one-kilowatt unit that powers eight street lamps, and an LED television set and a TV set-top box for the community centre.

“Till now, in all rural solar projects, central units would supply power to households. Often, the exposed cables would be tapped by some, while others would draw more than their shares. This would cause the central unit to overload and trip,” says Jakson’s Director HR and Administration Aparajitha Ramadyani. By providing individual units to each household, these problems have been resolved.

Villagers’ participation
The entire village has been involved in the planning and execution. Village mukhiya Narayan Hisa along with a local ITI diploma holder, Epil Kumar Singh, are responsible for the maintenance.

“The solar power energy has changed our lives.We had never seen the beauty of our village as it was never so lighted ever before. We do appreciate the initiative taken in our village simultaneously solemnly take the responsibility for maintaining the technology best to our possibility,” says Rajguru Swain, the local resident of the village.

On the other hand, ECCO CEO Vivek Bihani explains about solar panel and frame it to be fascinating structures that have been created to absorb and harness the rays of the sun. In doing this, electricity is generated naturally which can be used to power lights, plug sockets, or warm geysers. 

“The only maintenance required is regular cleaning of the solar panels and, in case of the central unit, ensuring that the water levels in the batteries are at the optimum mark. It is actually zero-maintenance,” Bihani further adds.

Two multipurpose LED lamps were handed over to each household in the village. “They cost Rs 2,650 and Rs 1,750 each and villagers can get them on easy instalments through micro-finance,” says Bihani.

Environment safety

Explaining the environment safety, Suchismita Das, chief executive in The Forest and Environment Department explains that we are not damaging the environment each time the light switch is put on. The amount of damage the creation of electricity causes to the environment is highly underrated.

“Each day the ozone layer becomes thinner and there are grievous climatic and environmental implications. There is a reason why environmentalists are encouraging the worldwide trend of solar energy. If you install solar panels you can rest assured that you are doing your bit to help the earth, you are leaving behind a good carbon footprint, as opposed to the devastating one that most other people do. This is especially comforting if you have children whom you know will reproduce to inhabit the earth for years to come,” says Das

Das further shares the importance of installation of the solar panel and add helping aid to the environment. “If you do not take out a loan to acquire the panels, then you are even better off. It might leave you out of pocket at first, but a few simple calculations will put your mind at ease. Write down how much money you spend on electricity bills every month, and then add that amount up. You will easily see how quickly it adds up to the amount that you spent on the panels initially, and then it even goes beyond that for years to come. The nice thing about solar panels is that they do not require regular maintenance, so they are relatively easy to have working for years.”

Adding an adjacent development to the village, new primary schools have been introduced. Quality of education shall not be compromised, says Ankita D Parida, a primary school teacher of the Krishi Vidyala.

Believing the philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi, Jakson under CSR also donated Rs 20 lakh to Bharat Lok Shiksha Parishad and adopted 100 Ekal Vidyalaya in Anchal Najbad, Faizabad and Uttar Pradesh.

“Our aim is to brighten the life of hundreds of underprivileged children in the remote areas,” says Ramadyani.

“A small contribution can change the life of hundred of children belonging to the weaker section of the society. This will benefit the school students to have regular classes and getting quality of education in their own locality,” adds Ramadyani. 

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