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From darkness to light

Last updated: 22 March, 2010

Development

Some villages in Mysore district lived in darkness for many years. But this has changed now, with a rural bank and an energy solutions company joining hands to make the villages solar-powered, reports Ravindra Bhat

Sun’s power: Solar lights have lit up an entire village in Bommalapura. DH photoThese villages have not seen or heard of load-shedding. Electricity does not appear and vanish whenever fancy strikes it, as is often the case with other villages. People here don’t have to bother too much about non-payment of electricity bills, and the consequences they have to face from Chescom authorities. They also don’t have to worry about their electricity meters being uninstalled.

In fact, residents of Mysore district’s hamlets Bommalapura and Sonahalli have power round the clock. These villages in HD Kote taluk are solar-powered and don’t depend on KPTCL.

There are electric poles and lines in Bommalapura, 11 km away from HD Kote town. Yet, the village had not seen electricity from the time of Independence. Many excuses were rolled out for more than 40 years for not supplying power. People living in this village bordering dense forest have had to contend with not only darkness, but also the menace of elephants foraging for food frequently.

Self-help’s the best help

But now, the situation has improved, thanks to Cauvery Kalpatharu Grameena Bank and SELCO. Raghavendra, the manager of the HD Kote branch of the Bank prepared a project to this end. He divided the 32 families in Bommalapura into two groups of 10 and 12 each. Then, self-help groups were formed to encourage savings in each family. The manager also devised a scheme wherein SELCO installed solar lamps and bulbs in the houses of the members of the self-help group.

According to the solar power company, the total cost of providing two lamps, a mobile charger and an improved stove to each house would come up to Rs 13,500. The Bank negotiated with the company and brought the cost down to Rs 9,000. The amount was lent to the self-help group members along with an insurance for Rs 30,000. According to the scheme, the beneficiaries had to clear the loan in five years by paying Rs 250 every month. The villagers who had seen the benefits of saving through their self-help groups are not only paying the monthly amount, but also solving some of their other problems by saving enough. A couple of them have also taken assistance of the self-help group to open shops in the village.

Bommalapura now has three self-help groups – Mahadeshwara, Basaveshwara and Vinayaka joint management groups. All the 32 houses are lit with solar power and the children don’t have to study in the light of kerosene lamps. Women no longer have to consume fumes to prepare meals, thanks to the improved solar stoves.

Sonahalli’s story

Sonahalli’s story is similar to the Bommalapura example. Under the Mahadeshwara Swamy Women’s Self-help Group, all the huts of the hamlet have been lit up by solar power. Moreover, the women have started saving more. Says Shivaramegowda of Bommalapura, “We led a life in darkness for more than 40 years, but are now seeing light thanks to Cauvery Kalpatharu Grameena Bank and SELCO.”

Indeed, after observing the achievements of the Bank’s HD Kote branch, Bank Chairman Shivaswamy has set a target of converting 100 villages of eight districts that come under the Bank’s jurisdiction into wholly solar-powered villages in the coming one year.

It was a song installing solar lamps in Bommalapura while it proved a difficult thing to do in Sonahalli haadi as the aadivasis (tribals) had to be convinced of the benefits. However, there is awareness among the inhabitants now and the solar lamps are being put to good use, says Bank Manager Raghavendra. The company has also manufactured solar equipment suitable for rural areas. “We also have models suited for houses using electricity,” says Ashok of SELCO.

(Translated by B S Srivani)

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