For the residents of remote agricultural village of Goela, located on the outskirts of Gurgaon, electricity was an amenity out of reach. It Electricity was thereavailable, but not when they needed it the most. The and its supply was erratic, often leaving them stranded in the middle of important vocational tasks.
With a recently set up solar charging station at their disposal now, to extend both the number of hours and the quality of each farming activity they undertake, the lives of Goela's residents are undergoing a transformation, slowly but surely.
'Aisa lagta hai kadam kadam par ek saathi mil gaya hai, jo raasta roshan kar deta hai' (I feel like I have a companion with me now, lighting every step of my way) sums up Shyamlal, the 50-year-old solar charging station entrepreneur. 'Mujhe lagta hai isse sab kuch badal jaega,' he says. (I think this will change everything).
The lanterns have already had a visible impact on Shyamlal's life. A field labourer before he took up the business of running the solar charging station, Shyamlal's net income has already shot up from INR 3000 to about INR 5000 by renting out lamps at INR 100 a month each. The cost of buying kerosene to fuel lamps for a month for the average farmer is above INR 150, making solar lamps not just cheaper, but much more satisfactory overall.
Farmers like Vijay Pal, a veteran in the village have found their produce to be of better quality because they were able to ward off pests.
Hamari sabzi ko bazaar mein zyada acche daam mil rahe hain aur methi hum raat ko chunate hain to usmein bahut madad mili hai,' he says. (Our vegetables get a better price in the market and we sort spinach leaves at night under the light of the solar lamps now, so that activity has received a big boost).
Ismein light zyada hai, dhuan bilkil nahi hai aur ghar mein aag lagne ka dar bhi nahi hai, to kerosene lalten to peeche choot jaega,' says Shyamlal. (Solar lamps give brighter illumination, are smoke-free and do not pose a fire hazard, so they'll leave kerosene lamps behind.
The metamorphosis in the life of Shyamlal's wife and children's lives is equally significant.
Chandravati, Shyamlal's wife, is a 45-year-old homemaker who was confined to doing domestic chores. She now supports her husband in running the solar charging station business by charging the lanterns and renting them out while he is working in the fields.
'Mujhe itna garv apne pati par ya apne upar kabhi nahi hua aur gaonwale bhi humein zyada samman dete hain,' says Chadravati.(I've never felt this proud of either my husband or myself and the village folk respect us more now too). 'Mere paas kuch gaon ki auratein bhi aane lagi hain, laltein ke bare mein seekhne ke liye.' (I've become a teacher to some of the village women who seek information on the lamps from me.)
Chandravati is eager to spread the word among the Self-Help Groups (SHGs) in the village in the future.
Some school-children, including Shyamlal and Chandravati's children, have already started studying for up to two hours every day using the lamps, making them among the first in the village to do their homework thoroughly and take more interest in their education.
'In bacchon ko dekh-dekh kar baki bacche bhi dheere-dheere lalten mang rahe hain,' says Shyamlal.(These children are inspiring others to slowly demand lanterns too).'Gaonwalon ko thode aur samay mein lalten ka laabh dikhega kerosene ke upar, aur phir 50 mein se mere khyal se sab lalten bhaade par chale jaenge,' adds Shyamlal. (The populace will realize how beneficial the solar lamps are compared to kerosene ones in some more time.)
'Main ghar-ghar jaata hun khud lalten leke, jisse sabko iske bare mein pata lage' says Shyamlal who looks forward to getting an additional 50 lanterns into his charging stations and to renting the lamps out to neighbouring villages in the future. (I deliver the lamps from door to door right now, because it's the best way to initiate the villagers into using it).
Residents in the cluster of villages around Goela, in sync with Shyamlal's aspirations too have started voicing their need and enthusiasm for getting a solar charging station set up for themselves.