This is a guest post from Sunil Dash. He has helped set up solar grids in 7 villages of Kotma in Madhya Pradesh.
Electricity does brighten our lives and if the sources is owned and managed by people themselves it just adds more shine to the celebration. Women from Madhya Pradesh are creating a history by managing different Solar Grid in their villages. In their own ways they are doing their bit to save our environment.
Seth Tola is a hamlet in village Reula. It is a small village in Annupur district, the upcoming power capital of Madahya Pradesh. The 67 families of the village, resides in four fragmented smaller hamlets named as Viran Tola, Mauhari Tola, Sarkari Tola and Seth Tola. All the hamlets are jointly called as Seth Tola named after Govind Seth from near-by town. Like most of the Indian villages both men &women share field works but overall women are more loaded with having responsibilities of family as well as field. Most of the families are dependent on daily wage labor works and small income from agriculture. Despite of proximity from Kotma the village does not have access to basic facilities like electricity, water etc.
Few years ago through a govt. scheme solar lightening project was proposed and villagers eagerly contributed some amount for accessing the facility, but after few days all things went in vain and people responsible for implementation of the project vanished and the electricity supply was disturbed.
People were really skeptical when efforts were made to revive these solar grids. After many village meetings and people’s consultation, people agreed to work together to revive solar grid. Residents decided to form a Village Energy Committee (EC) which would be responsible for ensuring smooth functioning of the grid. The first VEC was named as Seth Tola Urja Bikas Samiti. Then land of 200 meter square area was identified for the installation of Solar Grid. VEC meetings were conducted on regular basis and all the formalities were completed such as Registration in Gramshava, Land Agreement with SCATEC, Baseline Survey of households as well as load demand from community. Afterwards installation started and villagers of the hamlet were delighted as access to electricity facility would improve their life style, education, irrigation facility as well as transportation within the hamlet at night.
These solar grids have not just given them access to electricity but have given them a sense of responsibility and pride. Majority of VEC members are women, who traditionally are not considered as decision makers, but as now they independently decide how to manage electricity connection for the entire village. Right from power connection, deciding per unit rate, these women own these grids completely. In their own way they are acting like CEOs of big power houses who decide how much electricity is needed by users.
A simple intervention of generating electricity at the source using solar energy has made life easier for people.
Some of the changes that can been seen after connection to the households through CSPP are:
• Community has become aware of the Community Solar Power Plant and its management through VECs.
• All the decisions are being taken by the Village Energy Committee.
• Children are taking more interest towards education as they can study even at nights.
• Women are able to cook comfortably at night.
• Struggle for getting Kerosene through Public Distribution System has reduced
• Hamlet meetings are being conducted at night time quite well.
The case of Reula is a perfect of rural electrification through Renewable sources. Today many other villages in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh are being evacuated for coal based power plants and for coal mining. Electrification through Solar grid eliminates the need for mass evacuation of indigenous people and destruction of our pristine forests.
On National Day of Action on Coal 10th of November2012 member of Seth Tola Urja Bikas Samiti and other VECs would be organizing an awareness and solidarity campaign. http://act.350.org/event/india-beyond-coal/3563.