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The radiance that solar lamps brought to the Bhid village is reflected both in the spread and the intensity of the villagers’ activities. The introduction of solar lamps rendered kerosene lamps obsolete and they have become central to rural households and minds. Besides the fairly common uses that the lamp is put to across villages, there are other specific uses as well. ‘It is customary, by way of tradition in our village, to not leave a new-born child in darkness and with the solar lanterns we now have a safe and smoke free source of light to place near the child.’ says Mukesh Chandra Gurjar, the entrepreneur at the Bhid Solar Charging Station. Mukesh stands out from the rest of the village crowd, being one of the very few with a college degree in liberal arts. He now has plans to get a master’s degree in political science. The women of Bhid are mostly uneducated and most men too have had just a few years in school.
With a total of 90 enrolled schoolchildren, which includes 20 girls, education in Bhid is solely supported by solar lanterns. The lanterns have ushered in a newfound enthusiasm and dedication among the children. ‘As of today the women are uneducated and have to listen to the men. However, it is possible that the situation will improve as education makes its presence felt', says Gurjar. The empowerment of communities due to these solar lanterns, both through improved education and better entrepreneurship opportunities, may contribute towards bringing a change that goes beyond economics, into layers of traditional and often oppressive social norms that constricts rural India.
As an indirect outcome of using the lanterns, Bhid's population is also aiding much needed animal conservation efforts in the areas surrounding the village. ‘We're very happy with the increased incomes, and keep an eye on animals and poachers for Tiger Watch that have supplied these lanterns to us', says Gurjar. With collateral benefits like the formation of an information conduit between villagers and the NGO Tiger Watch on poaching activities, the lanterns have proved themselves to be multi-dimensional in their utility and impact.
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