It was just a casual conversation about power cuts in the city with her housemaid which was enough to open Anusheela Saha’s eyes to the challenges faced by students in slum areas while trying to study after sunset.
“She complained that lack of electricity and incessant power cuts make it hard for children in their slum to engage in studies after sun down. As a result they lose interest and eventually drop out of school. From then, I started thinking about a way to make life simpler for slum dwellers,” Saha, who works as a senior creative director with Cheil India, tells Metrolife.
The 34-year-old then set to build upon the fact that despite having plenty of sunlight, India lacked in providing electricity. This was how she came up with Light Bags - portable study unit with solar panels and lights attached, that could also be used as school bags –“the one basic thing that all children carry with them”.
“These could act as school bags during the day and become a study lamp at night – providing children with their very own source of light. As most of them attend open schools, these bags would be charged throughout the day as well. In the night, they transform into a study lamp by just opening a flap. It’s like a self contained unit that’s portable and easy to use,” she explains.
Saha, who started work on the project around March 2014 took two months on research and design, and the final product was ready by June. The first 20 bags were distributed among students of a school run by Salaam Baalak Trust in east Delhi’s Shastri Park area.
Sharing details, she says: "Each bag costs Rs 1,500. So far all bags have been funded by donations, either by individuals or organisations. The main cost is that of the solar panels that have to be shipped from China. It was surprising, how even the smallest of solar panel samples had to be brought in from China. In India, the big solar power players are not interested in small projects.”
She, however, adds that she has been trying her best to bring down the cost without compromising on the quality, so that slum dwellers could afford to buy them without relying on donations.
Other than the solar panels, all materials are procured locally and are then put together by her local tailor.So far, over 200 bags have been made and can directly be purchased from Saha through email.
The project has also been selected as a case study by KxSD – Knowledge x-Change for Sustainable Development, an initiative by The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) supported by the UK government.