Walking kilometres amidst tough and hilly terrains to reach the school, living a fearful life in darkness post-sunset are among a handful of the several daily challenges, which the tribals of Kinwat taluka in Nanded district have to live with.
This is one of those regions of Maharashtra, which has still remained off the power grid, while the remaining regions experience long durations of load shedding. According to the latest census data of 2011, about eight per cent population of Nanded comprises Scheduled Tribes (STs).
However, lives of about 2,200 tribal students across 14 ashram schools living here are set for a major makeover, with the launch of solar-powered lamps and electric bikes here.
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City-based Science and Technology Park (STP), in a joint venture with Mumbai-based ECGC Limited, has designed and developed special solar lamps capable of operating for up to six hours, even with a provision to be charged by a mobile phone.
“Our aim is to aid tribal students with alternative solutions, so that their learning experience is smooth,” Rajendra Jagdale, director-general of STP, told The Indian Express.
The solar lamps have an added in-built feature: lamps and mobile phones can be charged interchangably, meaning the phone can be powered using the lamps and vise-a-versa.
“Using a simple technology, the lamp can operate in normal intensity for up to sic hours operating after being solar powered for just two-and-a-half hours,” he added.
Another concern for students here is high school drop-out rate of girls. Maharashtra is home to 1.05 crore Schedule Tribes, of which, 51.95 lakh are women. Nandurbar (69 per cent ) has the highest tribal population in the state, while Sangli, Satara, Sindhudurga and Mumbai (surburban) have least number of tribals.
This was another area where experts wanted ‘scientific’ and permanent solutions. According to STP officials, it was learned that among the numerous reasons, commuting to school for girls after reaching a certain age was a major problem and was considered to be the pressing reason for high dropouts.
This is when the STP scientists decided to retrofit the regular cycles with Lithium batteries and received encouraging results.
“In one charging, the cycles, without any pedalling, could easily cover up to 30 kms and gain a speed of 25 kms/hr speed. It has been designed to work in hilly and rough terrains,” said Jagdale.