Calcutta, June 1: Once upon a time not too long ago, Garbhanga was one of the thousands of villages in Assam that plunged into darkness after sunset.
The darkness looks to be dispelled, however, through the efforts of the Parijat Academy and the Assam Foundation of North America’s Solar Light: Power to the People project.
The funds from the project will ensure that more eco-friendly solar lamps will replace harmful kerosene lamps.
It is also hoped that the village might be a torchbearer in solving power problems in the state and elsewhere.
Satyajit Nath, the president of the foundation, outlined the aim of the project. “We take modern lighting for granted for basics like children’s education. The project will bring a little bit of reliable lighting to the underprivileged. Garbhanga does not have electricity from the grid and it is unlikely to get any in the near future. Uttam Teron has been doing a commendable job of distributing the lights and we want to help his endeavour.”
According to the Housing, Household Amenities and Assets Census 2011 conducted by the Assam government 62 per cent households still use kerosene.
Uttam Teron, the founder of Parijat Academy, elaborated their dark story.
"The children of our academy have to study by lantern light. The kerosene lights have adverse effects on the eyesight and health of the women and children. We have succeeded in distributing 200 solar lights earlier, but more are needed. Hence, the funds will come in useful,” he said.
In order to raise funds, the foundation submitted a proposal in March to Global Giving, an organisation, which attracts donors for humanitarian projects across the world.
Global Giving set a goal for the foundation to raise $4,000 from 50 unique donors by April 30 to accept the project as permanent.
“Thankfully, through the hard work of many AFNA volunteers and generous contributions from many donors, this milestone was achieved before the deadline,” Nath said.
Funds are now pouring in from donors all over the world to help the team, led by Ankur Bora and Pinky Pradhan.
The solar lights have also benefited programmes on sanitation, education and women’s empowerment.
Women can cook food, children can study and men can continue their work in the evenings.
The lights that have been distributed among the villagers so far have been sent from Mumbai by an NGO, Eco-solutions.
“We receive solar lights from the NGO for free and if they are found to be working satisfactorily, we pay the money in instalments,” he added.
Sankar Bongjang, a resident of the area, said, “We were told that it is difficult to supply power to us because it is a hilly area. However, now we no longer have to sit in darkness. The lamps stay lit for at least 12 hours after being charged.”
“Moreover, the villagers who guard their crops from elephants and other marauders also take these lamps up into the treehouses,” added Teron.
The AFNA hopes the project can be replicated in other areas of Assam and the states of the Northeast.