The Stories Of Change

The Path from Darkness to Light

Families in rural Odisha were working tirelessly to finish important tasks before the sunset. The lack of electricity affected not just their livelihood but also children’s education. This is how a simple solar lamp changed things.

In a remote village in Odisha, families were seen planning and scheduling important tasks before sunset. As the sun was nearing to set, everyone seemed to be in a hurry. 

Reason being the lack of sufficient electricity supply in these areas. The houses in these remote villages get the power supply just for a couple of hours in a day. Hence, people schedule their activities according to the electricity supply and complete important tasks during the day time.

A simple solar has changed things for good in this remote Odisha village. | Photo: Adithya Acharya

To understand the gravity of their problems we need to understand how difficult life becomes when one has to plan the day as soon as they get up and ensure that they finish every task before the darkness sets in.

Think of the plight of women who work under the dim light of kerosene lamps to finish their household chores, school going children not getting adequate time to study, the anxiety of parents for the health of their children due to the harmful smoke of the kerosene lamp.

Kerosene lamps, a common source of illuminating the evenings for the households in rural Odisha. | Photo: Waiz Azam

The high cost of kerosene is also a burden on the limited financial resources. The fuel comes at the cost of Rs 50 per litre and each household had to fork out Rs 350-400 every month. Mindful of its negative impacts certain households adopted candles to light their homes in evenings.

The panacea to their problems arrived in the form of a solar lamp. Getting access to the solar lamp became a possibility, courtesy of the energy loan from Mahashakti Foundation, field partner of Milaap.

A solar lamp that brightened the lives

The solar lamp and its charging panel

The solar lamps are capable of providing light for a minimum of six hours in normal mode, which is more than adequate time for the families to cater to their household chores.

The monthly installments on the solar lamp are comparatively lower than the amount spent on kerosene. It provides the household with a much brighter source of illumination as well as access to clean energy.

A new innovation made in the design of the solar lamp is that it has a port to facilitate charging of cell-phone batteries. Not only does it provide for brightening their households and catering to their domestic needs, but the solar lamp also has different utility for different people.

More time to study

or Guadei Shabar, the solar lamp is key to their children’s education. | Photo: Waiz Azam

For many, it is the key to their children’s education. Take the case of Guadei Shabar, who despite financial difficulties had managed to finance the education of her children and harbours the dream of seeing them get educated.

A major hurdle in her achieving her objective was from the frequent power cuts robbing her children of several productive hours in the evening.

“Since my children were gearing for their higher secondary and secondary examination I used to worry for them. After buying a solar lamp things have now changed for the better,” she said. 

Shabar informed that her children now are able to study for more than four hours in the evening and it was a major reason for her elder son scoring first division.

For women like Meena Deep, the solar lamp has helped her family in multiple ways. Her savings have increased, she does not have to stress herself out planning the activities for the next day and nor does she have to worry about the health issues of her children.

“Not only has it lightened our evenings but our lives as well,” she said with a bright smile. Many villagers spoke with happiness radiating from their voices about the number of things they are now able to do due to the solar lamp.

Increased Livelihood

Many women like Dipa Bag, a tailor, use the solar lamps to increase their livelihood. | Photo: Waiz Azam

The solar lamp has also helped in raising the livelihood of many families by enabling them to have more time on their hands. Dipa Bag, a resident of Balangir district, who is a tailor by profession said that several women in her village are able to earn more by working in the evenings, which was not possible before.

Apart from all these benefits, a major advantage has been that the perspectives of people have changed. They have become more aware of the needs and benefits of adopting switching to renewable energy. The field officers at various branches shared that earlier they couldn’t install solar power-grids in many villages due to the resistance from the villagers.

However, today these very people are coming forward and providing all possible support for installation of these grids at the earliest.

“The solar lamp has not only brightened our evenings but our lives as well”, Meena Deep | Photo: Waiz Azam

“Seeing the benefits of a single solar lamp in their home has made them understand the advantage of having solar power-grids in their villages,” said Amit Tandi, field officer, M.Rampur branch of Mahashkti Foundation.

The ground reality is that the things which we take for granted in our daily lives are not available to many people. There may be multiple reasons behind it and no concrete solution to it.

Small steps such as providing a solar lamp to the rural populations and then working with them to broaden their horizons is a good start. The key lies in understanding their needs and making them see the advantage of adopting something different and something new. Further research into these aspects is bound to help in developing more holistic approaches towards improving the quality of life of rural India.

The story is part of the Milaap Fellowship Program.  It is a unique opportunity, providing young professionals with a six-month fellowship to contribute to a cause and cover inspiring stories of change

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Waiz Azam

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