5 Students, More Than 2000 Streetlights: This Is What Change Looks Like

Posted on December 17, 2013

By Prukalpa Sankar:

Can the “youth” of our nation really “change” the nation?

Last December, with a group of friends, I set out on a 15 day train journey to explore the real India. We had all been a bit shaken by the happenings of the year. Citizen voices in India had never been as loud. But something didn’t feel right. Our communities were getting together in only a few ways — signing online petitions, Facebook group discussions and sporadic offline events.


A few stray thoughts wandered into our heads. Wasn’t citizen voice too powerful to be restricted to just these channels? How could citizen voice be used differently to lead to real impact? We were engineers, and moreover engineers living in Singapore. Technology seemed to be a logical way to the goal. The question was…how?

Through our travel around India we were overwhelmed with one realization, that our country is filled with heroes…be it citizen groups, youth organizations, NGOs and public agencies, there were people everywhere in their own pockets, driving and accelerating change in their neighbourhoods. Was there a way to give our neighbourhood heroes the tools that they needed to efficiently and effectively engage citizen voices in creating real change?

A month back, a group of 5 university students were able to deploy 2.15 crores to drive away darkness from the city of Ranchi by using technology in a simple, efficient manner. People are astonished when they hear the story. They say, 2.15 crores? Really?

Poor street lighting is an issue that not many people think about even twice. Nelson Chacko, a university student thought about it more than twice. A simple problem like broken street lighting created a breeding ground for issues like crime and road accidents.

The I Lead India team at Ranchi decided to challenge the status quo and drive away darkness from the city. This required great amounts of awareness generation and community participation, which most citizen groups know how to carry out effectively! But in order to ensure that all their on-ground efforts had a clear call to action that could lead to impact — the I Lead Ranchi team launched a campaign on the Social Cops platform to crowd source reports regarding broken streetlights. On ground reporting was carried out via voice and web.

The I Lead Ranchi team now proceeded with their normal course of campaigning to raise awareness via school participation, flash mobs and on-ground events. The call to action was clear — help us find the darkest streets in the city by reporting via voice and web!

The authorities came forward to support the initiative. Data-driven community reporting and high level snapshots of data regarding which areas needed intervention led to quick and efficient deployment of resources to installing streetlights in the regions of the city that required them the most.

At the end of the I Lead Ranchi campaign, more than 2000 streetlights were installed, out of which 631 were LED lights costing 24,900 rupees per set and 1369 were vapour lights costing 4,138 rupees each. LED’s total cost was 1,57,11,900 rupees and vapour light’s total cost was 56, 64,922 rupees. Total amount deployed to installing streetlights at the end of the campaign was 2,13,76,822 rupees.

How many times have you heard the phrase, “Yeh desh nahi badlega.” I beg to differ. In a country where a group of 5 university kids can result in 2.15 crores being deployed towards fixing poor street lighting, hope exists. So the next time you are going to become a mute spectator to the problem you are most passionate about, stop right there and ask yourself, “What can you do to make it better?”

Because, passion always finds a way.

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