"We were scared of the dark streets and
would not leave our houses in the evenings. Things are different now. The solar
lights have lighted up our dark streets and also powered up our lives.”, said Nargis*
from Gangavara Village.
This case study from Gangavara village, speaks at length about the benefits of solar lights which were installed during 2020-2021 and 2021-22 by United Way Bengaluru under ‘Rural Rising’ – an integrated rural development program, with financial support as a part of the corporate social responsibility. As many as 400 solar lights have been installed in two phases across 18 villages in Devanahalli taluk with the objective to provide clean and affordable renewable energy to the villages.
Though many households in the villages had access to electricity
but there was absence of street lights in certain important locations. The
focus of the project was to provide lights in locations where there were no
street lights or areas with many SC/ST houses
but insufficient street lights that made daily commute difficult for
villagers, especially people who returned from work in the late evenings or
students who returned from their tuition classes. Solar lights were installed based
on the need and priority of the locations.
This case study is intended to bring out the
socioeconomic changes that occurred after the installation of the solar light in
front of the house of a beneficiary, named Nargis and the benefits it has
brought to her neighbours also.
Nargis lives with her husband, two kids, and two other relatives. Nargis’s family income is primarily from the tailoring business that she and her husband manages. Though her husband mainly manages the work front, she provides backend support to him and looks after the house and two children studying in classes 1 and 2.
There is frequent load shedding in the village, and at those times it became very difficult for the villagers to go outdoor for work or even carry out essential work like fetching water when the water supply came at odd hours, after the sunset. According to Nargis, women, and children have been greatly benefitted from the installation of the solar lights in her village.
Nargis expressed feeling safe after the installation of these solar lights. When any unprecedented incident happened in the locality, for example, death, she would feel scared in the evenings accessing the roads. "These solar lights keep the streets lit up. Even beam of light enters my house at night and I do not have to unnecessarily keep the lights of the house turned on like I used to do before.”, said Nargis.
One of the ways the solar light installed beside her house has helped her family is by extending their working hours in the evenings. Nargis who helps her husband with tailoring work, spends her evenings helping him and working with the tailoring machine which she keeps near the door, next to the solar street light. The solar light is enough and lets her work uninterruptedly without having to think about the electricity consumption or even when there is no power for hours.
Along with the tailoring business, Nargis rolls ‘beedi’, for secondary
income. She does it under the street lights and thus ends up saving Rs 300
annually from the current electricity bill. This means more savings for Nargis’s
family as she does not have to consume the electricity for work which she has can
manage to do with the help of the solar light. "From stitching to chopping vegetables,
I prefer to do these activities under the solar light and save our electricity
bill.”, confirmed Nargis. This aspect of the intervention is a secondary
benefit for beneficiaries like Nargis. The primary aim was to provide
illumination at night time.
Benefits to others in the neighbourhood
The solar lights have also benefitted students who returned from their tuition classes in the evenings and were often chased by dogs, in the dark lanes. These lights have brought a sense of confidence and safety among children who are not scared when they return late from their private coaching classes in the evenings. Children also can play safely till late hours.
The solar lights have been very useful for young girls who go to work or return from work in the late evenings. Many youths from the village work in the surrounding factories and the Bengaluru airport which is very close by. They felt unsafe commuting at odd hours when there were no lights in the neighbourhood. Now the well-lit up streets make them feel safe.
There has been significant improvement in social activities which were earlier limited to day time. Villagers have started spending more time socializing in the evenings because of the solar light posts. Self Help Group meetings are conducted under the solar lights confirmed, Sridevi, Nargis’s neighbour.
Many villagers never left their homes after the sun went down but going out
in the evenings is not difficult anymore.
The solar lights have proved to be economically supportive and an environmentally
friendly solution for families like Nargis’s and the village as a whole. They
have played a key role in transforming the lives of people in Gangavara village.
*Names changed for privacy issues.