Even as the world heritage site of Elephanta continues to struggle for 24×7 electricity , around 200 families in seven villages in a tribal district of Palghar barely four-and-a-half hours from Mumbai, brought electricity into their homes for the first time since Independence, with a community solar system. The villagers themselves worked to set up seven 12kv power houses, their batteries, distribution points, wires and street lights over seven months and saved nearly Rs 50,000 in labour charges for installation. The sy stem was commissioned in the first week of June this year.
Electricity has not only lit up these remote villages but brought them other small pleasures as well. The villages now have gadgets like televisions and refrigerators for the first time. Dhakal Baraf and Madhukar Bhoye from Nawapada and Manmohadi villages have opened cold drink kiosks in their shops that sell articles of daily use, as they bought refrigerators for the first time. Like Kirkire, they too pointed out that snake bites had declined remarkably due to the street lights.
“One person from each family spent seven months of labour to commission power from June 3. Soon they will get submersible solar water pumps and flour mills, helping women save time and energy to be with their children,“ said Sunanda Patwardhan of Pragati Pratishthan, an NGO that has helped nearly 200 villages in the district get schools, medication and power supply .
Interestingly, the power tariff is Rs 10 per unit, higher than even suppliers like MSEDCL, Tata Power, Reliance and BEST. But due to their small electricity requirement, the monthly bill of a household ranges from Rs 80 to Rs 200.“Money collected through bills is required to replace the costly solar batteries every year. Seven 12kv power houses have been built in each village by spen ding Rs 1.47 crore, funded by CICI Bank under its corporate ocial responsibility scheme,“ aid Laxman Doke, who organi ed villagers for the job.
“The Pratishthan has helped 210 villages with solar ligh ing, but this system has come up in the remotest villages.Another 150 villages are yet to get electricity in this district in alukas like Dahanu and Vikramgad, as MSEDCL or other power suppliers have not reached here,“ said Satyendra Kalkar, who is associated with the Pratishthan. He said the NGO has fitted solar water pumps in 33 villages over the last five years and all of them were working 24×7 without any disturbance even in the monsoon.