Neeraj and Dinesh Bedia study under a solar lamp in Burhakocha of Angara block in Ranchi. (Prashant Mitra)
Ranchi, Dec. 25: For two decades, hungry herds of elephants did not allow Burhakocha to live in peace, paying unwelcome visits at least once a week after sundown during the harvest season to devour paddy and vegetables.
Today, tribal natives of the village — tucked away in the deep forests of Angara block, 35km from the capital, and surrounded by mountains — no longer spend nervous nights in the dark. In fact, children of Burhakocha stay up late to study under bright lights, thanks to a solar revolution.
The best part is that this electricity-less village owes nothing to the government for their radical and powerful progress. In March 2011, each of the 50 families rustled up resources to buy solar panels from Jharkhand Renewable Energy Development Authority (JREDA) under a 50 per cent discount scheme and have been rewarded with a life free of marauding giants ever since.
In May this year, a herd had killed two persons in neighbouring Bisa village. Though Burhakocha never suffered such a casualty, fear had reigned supreme for years till solar power lit up the lives of its 250-odd denizens.
“Elephants started avoiding our village soon after we installed the solar sets bought from JREDA. Earlier, when it used to be dark after sundown, they would damage huts to steal paddy. We never slept in peace for 20 years… maybe more,” said sexagenarian Sona Bedia.
So, how did Burhakocha come to know of solar lights? Ramakrishna Mission, which promotes livelihood, education and health in Angara block, played messenger.
“Two years ago, when we visited the village, residents told us about the elephant menace and lack of electricity. We funded two solar lights. They liked the gift and requested us to purchase more from JREDA on their behalf. Each family pooled in Rs 3,600 for a solar panel,” said Subhas Kumar, an RKM official looking after livelihood projects of the organisation.
The Bedia tribe, which inhabits the village, boasts commendable awareness. Primarily agrarian, the economy of Burhakocha is centred on vegetable farming, lac cultivation, poultry farming, fisheries and goatery. The self-made villagers believe in changing their own fortunes instead of depending on the government.
“Each family earns Rs 80,000 to Rs 90,000 a year from lac cultivation. Ever since we installed the solar lights, our farm produces have remained safe. The biggest benefit, however, is that our children can now study even in the evenings,” said Ramesh Bedia who has studied up to Class XII.
Burhakocha has one gripe: the village has no high school and children pedal 10km of terrible road to Jonha.
“The condition of the approach road to our village from Ranchi-Muri highway is very, very bad. Our children cycle their way to a high school along this mishap magnet stretch. Besides, villagers use the same road to carry their produce to city markets. If the road is revamped, we would be very glad,” said Magha Bedia.
Is that asking for too much, Mr CM?