In India, it is estimated that over 30 crore Indians still do not have access to power in any form. Result is, there day ends early as soon as the sun goes down. In February 2010, the Students in Free Enterprise at H.R.College of Commerce & Economics in Mumbai (SIFE HRC) visited some of these villages. They were shocked to know that just 4-5 hours away from India’s financial capital Mumbai, there were villages which do not even have a single house electrified. From there started an initiative, an initiative to bring about rural transformation in these dark villages – Project Chirag.
The First Step
Realizing the problem, students from SIFE HRC decided to light up Ujjaini village in Wada Taluka. Students chanced upon an entrepreneur who would supply solar lamps to them at a nominal price of 3,650 Rs. each. To light up Ujjaini’s 111 households would cost over Rs 4 lakh. Students came up with an innovative fund raising campaign, “10 Rupees for Light”. With 6,000 students in the college, they figured that even Rs. 10 a day for 3-4 days would help them raise the required amount. With their principal’s help, students removed tubelights from public areas of the college, kept fans switched off for a week, and gave their fellow students a taste of what it was like to live in the dark. Their campaign worked and in just short span of 4 days, students raised over Rs. 5 lakhs and marched on to light up Ujjaini on March 12, 2010.
In Ujjaini, each house got an LED device that comprises a solar lantern, a battery, a tubelight and two solar panels. The panels are put on the roof, the wires connected to a battery, which charges the portable lanterns. The lamps offer villagers the additional bonus of portability. The success in Ujjaini catapulted the students to bigger things.
Project Chirag is a movement which is completely run by the youth volunteers. Volunteers raise funds in creative ways, partnering with corporations as well as schools. The project members work with rural development NGOs in each state to communicate with the villages where they provide lights.
Today, almost 4,000 households in 100 villages of four states: Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka have been lit up. Jobs have been created along the value chain, students study longer, women often use the extra hours to make handicrafts and other products, and shops stay open longer. Villagers now spend less on kerosene oil, which benefits them with their savings and also the environment with reduced emissions.
Recently on 18th November 2012, Project Chirag Team received a letter of appreciation and encouragement from U.S. Secretary of State – Hillary Clinton.
Project Chirag has a five-point rural transformation model that is scalable and can be applied to any village. The model provides for solar electrification, health and sanitation, education, economic upliftment and social development. The remaining phases are all linked to the first phase of lighting, so they are looking for partners, especially colleges, to adopt the model. They have also made headway with corporates, HDFC has adopted a village, and are engaging with others to follow suit.
“As the youth, we really need to step forward to contribute towards solving social problems facing India today and Project Chirag is a platform for the youth to be a part of the India growth story. We are looking forward to this initiative scaling up nationally and internationally in the next couple of years. Our belief is that we don’t need extraordinary people to make a difference, but ordinary people with extraordinary passion” says Jyotirmoy, co-founder of Project Chirag.