Pitch dark with no access to urban basics, the rural part of India was long living in black- literally as well as metaphorically. What was a bustling place of conversations, harvesters and buffaloes churning milk in daylight, came to screeching halt as the sun went down. With no electricity, the scope of technology to ignite any development was indeed a far stretched dream.
To light up their dim nights, castor oil and kerosene started making its place in their mud- bricked crannies. While their usage has been associated with the risk of domestic fire and respiratory infection, the locals never considered any of it. Or perhaps, they never even had the leverage to consider it.
However, in the last five years, the picture has revolutionised- thanks to reducing dependency on grid power and inclusion of solar in daily lives. While a lot of NGO’s and MNC’s contributions through corporate social responsibility has made solar lanterns a cheaper and cleaner alternative to kerosene-lit lanterns, inspiring stories of individuals making a difference in Indian villages slowly started surfacing.
Ajaita Shah is a fine example of it. An Indian-New Yorker, Ajaita migrated to her native village in Rajasthan as soon she graduated from Tufts University.
A lucrative career in corporate law abroad couldn’t deter her from becoming the light of rural India ignited by an accident of a girl due to kerosene fire. Risking her little savings, she started ‘’Frontier Markets’’ to bring a clean, safe yet an affordable energy to north western regions of Rajasthan. As of now, she’s sold more than 85,000 solar products and set up 225 retail outlets to provide after-sales servicing.
A plethora of startups are targeting rural market instead of urban. With a lack of power grid facility, these villages are becoming hotspots for basic lighting. A state like Uttar Pradesh has more than 20 million rural households with no electricity. This alone explains the wide scope these startups eye in rural interiors.
Apart from Modi’s ambitious solar project aimed aggressively at rural India, MNRE has been providing 70% subsidy in north-eastern regions of India and 30% in other regions. With a number of other government incentives and schemes,rural India has been under the lens of rapid transformation in last few years.
Very Recently MNRE implemented a Programme on ‘’Off-Grid and Decentralized Solar Applications” to promote use of solar lights, plants and pumps. The centre will provide a 30% assistance to motivate rural breed to adapt to this renewable source of energy. In fact, another scheme ‘’Small Wind Energy and Hybrid System’’ is on its way to install hybrid system consisting of both Solar Photovoltaic and aero generator technologies.
By 2035, global energy demand will increase by a third, Almost 90% of it will come from developing nations. India, for one is slowly realising how its dream to transform into a developed country will remain just that if they leave rural India behind.
In time, power will be generated on a local level. Government wouldn’t have to be compelled to make convention fuelled power plants as ideally, health and environmental awareness will penetrate deeper. To be precise, grants wouldn’t work in the rising solar economy and as a boon, an increasing interest of emerging startups is further fuelling the investment in solar sector in the form of commercial capital.