Two youths light up lives of people in Gujarat village

Two youths light up lives of people in Gujarat village

The road leading to Sakwa village might not be a joy ride but on reaching it one realises that it is different from neighbouring villages in terms of electricity and agriculture. About 40 km from Kevadia, the village is a success story with initiative of the residents. The village, which has 35 households, virtually survives on solar power.

The equipment given by the government for the residents worked for a few years and they stopped functio­ning due to lack of maintenance and servicing. The government did not take the initiative or interest in addressing the problem.

Most villagers blamed it on their fate and started getting adjusted to life
without facilities, which they had enjoyed for a few years. But, Vishwen Soni and his brother Bhargav from the village were not willing to take it that way. The two had completed their graduation in Ahmedabad and if they wished they could have settled for a decently-paid job in a town or city. The two youngsters had different ideas and they wanted to return to their roots and help the villagers.

“We realised that it is difficult to get electricity to the village due to its topography. As the grid is far away, it is very difficult to supply power to the village. Hence, the government opted for solar power and installed equipment so that the villagers could lead a reasonably comfortable life,” said Vishwen.

They worked well for the first few years and the trouble started after they developed problems. No one in the village knew how to repair the equipment. The government had not committed itself to replacing the old equipment.

Caught in a bind, the villagers could not find an easy way out. They thought it was best to return to the traditional lighting of the lamp in the night. “Most of them are land tillers and a few of them are landowners. They did not understand how the solar lighting system functioned,” said Vishwen Soni.

That is when the two brothers decided that they should look for a way out of quagmire and help the villagers. Then, the brothers joined a course in a technical institute offering training in repairing solar lighting systems. As they were armed with a certificate from a recognised training institute, the duo were authorised to repair or attend to the problems in solar lighting systems. “The solar lighting systems were installed about five years ago and the state government had not sent anyone for maintenance. The villagers did not have the requisite information to attend to
minor problems. The problem was compounded as they did not know to whom to complain to get the problems redressed,” said Bhargav Soni.

The duo returned to the village with the knowledge to repair the solar lighting system. They were not content with repairing the faulty systems. They were eager to pass on the knowledge to others on maintenance of the equipment given to them by the government.

It was not an easy task for the duo to impress upon the villagers on the need to learn techniques to repair the equipment. It needed a lot of persuasion and talking for the duo on the need to maintain their equipment for better quality of life. Fortunately, the efforts did not go waste and most of the villagers listened to them and learnt the techniques.

Some of the villa­gers were initially apprehensive on training as they thought that they could be in trouble for meddling with government property. They also thought why should they maintain a system provided by the government. It was the duty of the government to keep it in running condition.

Bhargav said soon the apprehension turned into enthusiasm. First one
family came and realised the benefits of getting trained. Other families followed suit. “It was not just training them it was also about preparing them mentally that it was their personal property and they need to maintain,” said Bhargav.

Agreeing with Bhargav, one of the villagers, Jethabhai Karsanbhai said: “When solar systems were installed we thought it was the responsibility of the state government to maintain them as well.’’ When they remained non-functional for a year, they realised that there was no scope for complaining and if they had to live in comfort they had to take the initiative.

Then Jethabhai sent his sons to Vishwen and his brother. “It was not just learning to repair the equipment but our sons also got trained in organic farming which they realised was also good for the farms,’’ said Jethabhai.

The villagers admit that the trainingimparted had indeed improved the
living condition. “Studying at night for the school and college students was difficult. With the solar systems being functional and maintained individually the
villagers admit that life in the village and households was much better and more comfortable.

The villagers realise that when the government stops working they have to start working to keep their lives going. Another villager, Bhiljibhai Rathwa,who has been trained by Viren and Bhargav, admits that with the rising price of kerosene it is difficult to function without the solar system. Rathwa admits that with the little homemade tricks taught by the two brothers, villagers are happy now.

“After having trained them to maintain the solar system, the villagers realise that they do not need to depend on the govern­ment,’’ said Vishwen.  

He said that the villagers were also being trained in organic farming so that more produce could be generated per farm and that was also a job that the father of the two Devendra Soni who had taken it upon him. The villagers are now working toward a better farm and more produce.

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