Not long ago, Sita, a tribal woman of Shishviya village in Rajasthan’s Udaipur district, used to share a kerosene lamp with her children who studied under its dim light as she cooked.
Last month, her house was lit up with solar energy when Shishviya and 26 other remote villages in the district got solar power connections under the chief minister’s rural electrification scheme.
Under the scheme, each household gets five LED (light emitting diode) bulbs, one ceiling fan and a cell phone-charging socket.
“Before we got solar power connections, we used kerosene lamp to light up our house. However, kerosene was always in short supply,” said Sita’s husband Udai Singh.
Solar power now lights up villages in some of the most backward and inaccessible regions not connected to an electrical grid. “So far, more than 6,200 households across 91 villages in Udaipur, Barmer and Bara districts have been covered under the scheme,” Rajasthan Renewable Energy Corporation managing director BK Dosi told HT.
The Rajasthan Electronics and Instruments Ltd (REIL) has been tasked with installing standalone solar lighting system of 100 watts at each household. “The beneficiaries have to shell out only ₹1,029 or 5% of the total cost of ₹20,573 as the rest is subsidised by the state government,” project officer Rakesh Katiyar said.
There is no monthly charge and maintenance is free, but if there is a breakdown in equipment due to the consumer’s fault and if it has to be replaced, then he or she will have to pay the charges. For generations, tribals in remote villages of Udaipur district had no access to electricity.
Power department officials said that it was not possible to give grid connections to many villages as installation of poles and cables is not allowed in forestland.
The new electric connections have transformed their everyday life. “Lack of electricity was not only inconvenient but could also have proved fatal. Snakes have entered huts unnoticed due to darkness,” Dhaniya Ram (45), deputy sarpanch of Umaria, told HT.
Dhaniya Ram, one of the few to have a cell phone, used to travel 15km to Kotra town to charge it.
“Tribals didn’t know the comfort of cool air of a fan. It was difficult to get a boy of these villages married with a girl from other villages that had access to electricity,” he said.
Against 2,024 identified houses in 27 villages, about 1800 have been provided solar power connections and the process is underway to cover the rest of the households.
One hindrance to getting solar connection is that the head of the family must have an Aadhaar card.
About 150 connections are pending in 27 villages in Udaipur district either due to absence of Aadhaar cards or due to mismatch in name of the head of the family in ration card and Aadhaar card, said an REIL official.
In the 2016-17 budget, the Rajasthan government allocated ₹24.97 crore for electrifying villages through solar energy.