This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Rang De. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

This Remote Region In Rajasthan Could Be India’s Answer To Tackling Energy Poverty

More from Rang De

The truth about the efficiency of renewable energy boils down to one word: economics.

According to conventional wisdom, it has long been understood that renewable energy will have a marginal impact on our everyday lives if coal-based electricity continues to be cheaper. In India, with the tariffs on solar and wind-based electricity falling below that on coal-based power, the prospects of renewable energy in the country have changed for good. The trajectory of India’s shift to renewable energy can be seen in the way international publications like The New York Times have covered the renewable energy sector in India – from scathing articles condemning India’s dependence on coal-based energy to more recent articles lavishing praise on the country’s renewable energy ambitions.

The watershed moment for renewable energy in India occurred on October 2, 2016, when it officially ratified the Paris Agreement of 2015. According to the terms of the Paris Agreement, India is set to replace 40% of its existing energy capacity (close to 175 GW of power) with renewable energy. India is a solar-surplus country with a vast untapped potential for solar-based power generation. So it is only natural that of the 175 GW renewable energy target, 100 GW is expected to be generated from solar energy.

Despite these bold steps for sustainable energy generation, nearly 240 million people in India continue to live without electricity. For a majority of India’s population, the challenge when it comes to energy is two-fold: finance and accessibility. For many people, the money spent on accessing power represents a significant part of their livelihood. At the same time, the existing grid-based power systems have not reached everyone in the country, leaving millions in the darkness.

The Kotra tehsil in Udaipur district, Rajasthan, is one such region in India without access to grid-based electricity. Kotra has the same problems as other remote, tribal regions in India – a chronic lack of access to healthcare, education and livelihood opportunities. The lack of access to energy compounds many of these problems, stifling development in the region.

Many remote rural regions in India do not have access to grid-based electricity. Decentralised renewable energy systems can help these regions get access to power. (PC: Vivek Shastry)

Vivek Shastry, an energy analyst at the SELCO Foundation in Bengaluru, has been working with the community in Kotra, providing them with electricity through decentralised solar systems. According to him, “Energy is an entry point for many people. All development in agriculture, livelihoods and agro-based industries follow from there.” 

For communities like the ones in Kotra, decentralised renewable energy systems – individual solar units or community wind turbines – could very well provide an alternative way of accessing energy. Despite the remoteness and relative backwardness of the region, solar power is not an alien concept to the people here. Over the past decade in Kotra, several cheap, China-made solar units have flooded the market. A few years ago, an initiative by the state government also provided many of Kotra’s residents with heavily-subsidised solar units. The cheap China-made solar products were often of poor quality and stopped working within a few years of use.

The systems provided by the government posed another challenge. As Vivek explains, “Solar systems worth ₹20,000 were subsidised and offered at ₹1,000. This was a great initiative. But without an existing network of service and repair, if the solar system stopped working for some reason or the other, people stopped using them entirely.” When it comes to ‘energy poverty’ in regions like Kotra, providing ‘band-aid’ solutions erodes the faith of people in renewable energy, thereby making it hard to convince them to take it up again. This is tragic because the benefits of solar energy are immense.

A field visit to the Kotra region in Rajasthan. Lack of access to energy compounds social issues in remote, tribal regions like Kotra. (PC: Vivek Shastry)

In the absence of grid-based power, the families in Kotra spend a substantial chunk of their monthly income on accessing traditional sources of fuel like kerosene or wood, which have an adverse impact on the health of the family, particularly the women and children. In villages throughout the region, the need for electricity is acutely felt. It is not uncommon for the men in the villages here to undertake long trips to the central marketplace to charge their mobile phones – for something as innocuous as listening to the radio or favourite Hindi movie songs.

Ensuring the success of renewable energy in Kotra requires innovative strategies. One method is to engage the local community members. The Kotra Adivasi Sansthan is an NGO that has been working for the rights of Adivasis in the Kotra region for more than 30 years. They are playing a pivotal role in convincing local community members in Kotra to take up solar energy.

Another effective strategy being practised in Kotra is to introduce an alternative financing model. The SELCO Foundation is working with Rang De to provide low-cost financing to the people in Kotra.

Since March this year, 25 families have been provided with solar units in the pilot phase of the project. The solar loans offered by Rang De will soon provide 45 more families in Kotra with solar energy units. These solar loans, which are to be repaid in monthly installments, are allowing many families with low incomes to go ahead with installing solar power units in their homes.

The persistent problem of ‘energy poverty’ in India can only be solved through concerted efforts of the government and policy interventions at the highest levels. But for the marginalised sections of the population, who often fall through the cracks in the system, a needs-based model of providing access to energy, like the one underway in Kotra, might be worth exploring.

_

Featured image used for representative purposes only.

Featured image sources: Wikimedia commons
You must be to comment.
  1. grvchaudhary

    What a persistent effort by the an ngo for the sustained growth of tribal people in remote areas. I applaud those involved and Range de for giving such noble and vauable insights. Kudos.

More from Rang De

Similar Posts

By Ecochirp Foundation

By Meharmeet Kaur Thandi

By Ramakrishna Reddy

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below