One child,one light,all solar

Studying under the light of a kerosene lamp is something millions of students have to go through even today.

Written by Milind Ghatwai | Bhopal | Published: May 21, 2013 3:30 am

Studying under the light of a kerosene lamp is something millions of students have to go through even today.

“Can’t we guarantee even a basic need like light?” says Dr Chetan Solanki,38,an associate professor in IIT Bombay’s department of energy science and engineering,and who has launched a “one child,one light” campaign to promote solar energy in Khargone,his home district. His primary education in Nemit village,130 km from Indore,was no different from that of students whose lives he is trying to change.

In Bhikangaon tehsil,more than 21,000 students have been provided solar lanterns since November at a subsidised cost of Rs 200 each. The actual cost is Rs 580,with the remainder borne by the government,NGOs and donors.

Solanki did his engineering from a college in Indore,his M Tech from IIT Bombay and got a Ph D from Belgium. Last year,he undertook a “solar yatra” and spoke to more than 10,000 students in Khandwa,Khargone,Indore and Bhopal districts,explaining the benefits of using this renewable form of energy.

He initially struggled to get the message across. “Schools were not buying the idea,” he says. He had to visit parents at night to convince them. He is likely to miss the target of distributing one lakh lanterns in Khargone by August this year.

The “one child,one light” idea was floated by a Hyderabad-based trust a few years ago; it has clicked in Khargone. Solanki says the key lies in localisation of the technology. Efforts to promote solar energy have not met with much success over three decades for lack of local manufacturers and locally trained personnel to repair them.

Solanki last week visited Patalkot,a valley in Chhindwara district,and demonstrated his lamps to children of the Bharia tribe. “There should be more such programmes because students showed a lot of interest,” says Sharad Kumar Karanjle,a teacher. He has started using a solar lantern during power cuts. Not every village in the valley has electricity.

Solanki has sought funds from the Centre for his proposal to distribute one million lanterns in Rajasthan,MP and Maharashtra.

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