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400 million People in 72,000 villages of India have no access to any form of electricity. The day ends when they see the last ray of sunshine sink into the land and seas. Their only hope after dusk is to use kerosene lamps, which not only emit poor quality light but also have serious health an environmental hazards. Furthermore there exists a danger from burning kerosene lamps over turning and drinking of kerosene by children which has even caused death in certain areas. Even in today’s age, rural families in India spend a large fraction of their income on this source of unsafe and inefficient lighting.
India’s heart beats in its villages. A few years back, students from H.R. College of Commerce & Economics in Mumbai decided to visit some villages and the reality was rather unnerving. They realized that just 4-5 hours out of their beloved megapolis Mumbai, their fellow countrymen and women lived in unbelievably poor conditions. Extremely touched by the visit, they decided that they would take it upon themselves to bring about rural transformation in these dark villages. Bringing light was the solution to many problems and this shaped the need for an alternative which was continuously available, durable, safe and affordable.
Solar home lighting for rural India
Project Chirag (www.projectchirag.com) is an initiative by students of H.R. College, Mumbai to provide solar lighting to rural households having no access to electricity. Two solar powered lights are provided to the targeted households catering to both indoor and outdoor lighting requirements, thus providing the beneficiaries with a safe & clean source of light beyond sunset.
Introducing solar lighting to the lives of the villagers exhibits a direct impact on their lives, namely - higher productive & work hours, children are able to study at night, women can cook fresh food, it facilitates better access to medical clinics post sunset, there are lesser deaths from snake bites and ultimately it leads to an outright sense of security.
Involving the youth – Students of various schools & universities are involved in the grass root level execution of Project Chirag. These students participate in all phases of the project and are thus provided with a platform for experiential learning through their exposure to the needs of rural India. It also makes them more sensitive and responsible towards their society, country and the world.
Involving the differently abled – The paraplegic community together with deaf & mute individuals have formed an essential element of the project’s value chain in the assembly of the solar devices as well as service and maintenance of the solar equipment formerly installed. With the idea that the differently abled should not always be on the receiving end but also be able to contribute to change, we’ve involved and enabled these individuals to earn an annual income of 40% higher than the average per-capita income in India and also be able to contribute in creating a brighter and better India.
In just 2 years, as of January 2013, 120 villages have been lit up, impacting 4,726 households and more than 25,000 people. In 2012, we established the Chirag Rural Development Foundation that will ensure the long term success of the project.
Sounds incredible, this is what the collective power of the youth is capable of doing! It is not about talking, it’s about doing. It’s not about problems, it’s about solving them. It’s not about having vision, it is about putting dates to those visions and making them goals. It is finally about contributing that small drop towards making “India Shining” in the true sense.
(Above: Students getting involved with the execution of Project Chirag in Navapada Village, Jawhar Taluka, Maharashtra)
Project Chirag is now scoping further development in the UK and with the help and support of motivated students of Kings College, London; we established our first UK university chapter in November 2012. We are currently working on developing another 5 university chapters including the one at the University of Westminster and are trying to set up the Project Chirag UK charity in 2013. These chapters and the registered charity will be instrumental in raising funds and awareness in the UK and help take the project further to deliver light in villages in India and over a period of time, globally as well.
Many institutions like International Students House and various corporate firms have come forward to show their support towards the project and are helping mobilize action across the UK. If you wish to join the movement or support it in anyway, please feel free to connect with me.
In the words of Mahatma Gandhi “Be the change you want to see in the world”
(Above: Paras Fatnani speaking at the One Young World Summit 2012, Pittsburgh)