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Kishore belongs to the Warli tribe of Panchagarh village in Maharashtra. Most families from the village have migrated to nearby towns and cities in search for work as the village is un-electrified even water has to be collected from one of the three hand-pumps installed by the Government. The present condition of education, health and sanitation paint a lackluster picture of life in Panchagarh. Villagers earn their livelihood cultivating millets and pulses in their community fields or by working as laborers in other fields.
Kishore attended school till the 8th grade, and is one of the few literate residents of Panchagarh. He is also one of the few people who practices the dying art of Warli in his village. But Kishore had to give up his passion for painting when his elder brother and the only earning member of his family passed away. Kishore took up an office assistant’s job in Thane to support his family of five at a meager income of 3000 rupees. By the time he returned from work, it was already evening and too dark to paint in the dim light of a wick-lamp.
In 2013, things took a positive turn when LaBL partnered with ICICI Bank to install 40 solar charging stations in 40 villages of the Wada Block. Panchagarh was one of these villages and and Kishore was nominated to manage the the charging station. This intervention transformed the lives of the people of Panchagarh. Women got better light to cook and mend in, children were able to read and study their lessons in the evenings and farmers carried lanterns to the field at night to guard them against wild boars. Artists like Kishore were able to come home and paint, even if it was late in the night.
Kishore charges a daily rent of two rupees per lantern and for those who are not able to afford even this much, he takes payments in kind – as poorer villagers find it easier to pay with a share of their monthly crop produce. This ensured that even the most deprived section of people were not excluded from the benefits of better and cleaner light. Kishore is able to earn an additional two thousand rupees every month by renting out the lanterns. He is also able to paint for longer hours in the evenings. Kishore has become a smart businessman, and creates bespoke designs for his customers. He earns around two thousand rupees per painting and manages to sell two or three paintings a month. It is heartening to see that the intervention has not only enhanced the income of an artist-cum-entrepreneur like Kishore, but has also helped in saving a dying art.
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