A secluded village near Jaisalmer had been in dark since forever. The village put ups in the deserts of Rajasthan. Hotasar was one of the 75 million households in India who were still living by candlelight. Country’s electrification plan, where every village will have access to 24 hour electricity somehow failed to provide it to them. A small village of 210 people had no clue what electricity was or how it worked.The villagers only saw the light bulbs glowing when they visited the town and were in awe about how bright and lit up the streets were. Many plans to electrify the village failed consistently. Electrical engineer, Mojeem Khan was on his way to give Hotasar its first light bulb, when a government official told the villagers about it, he was shooed away. “Bright light? To Hotasar? Impossible!” said the villagers.
One of the villagers, Akbar Pardeshi had been anticipated about the arrival of electricity for a long time and had bought a second hand TV set 15 days prior the electricity connection with the villager’s contribution. Khan arrived at Akbar’s place when it was dark and the power companies would witch on their lights. Few villagers seemed to have grasped how the light bulbs worked.
The rumor circulated in the small village about electricity only coming with the lady, innocent questions like Khan bringing light in his bag were asked by the villagers. Hussein Pardeshi, Akbar’s younger brother dropped out of school after grade 5 because there was no light at home to study. He failed a couple of times because there was sheer darkness when he came home to read books. His father suggested dropping studies as there was no point because he kept failing repeatedly.
Going to bathroom may seem like a normal routine for us with lights on and proper walls, the female population had to go to the bathroom in the open. The girls are afraid of wild dogs and snakes roaming freely in the fields. These girls are vulnerable to attacks and sexual violence under such circumstances.
The villagers were handed out same solar panels but they can’t do anything more than charge the phones or small torch battery. Villagers believe that the sun makes their phones work and if the sky is cloudy then it stays off.
Despite of Indian economy booming, the successful government failed to develop basic infrastructure and welfare programmes. Meaning while other people can afford expensive cars and latest phones, these people don’t even have basic facilities like electricity and toilets. 12 electrification programmes have been attempted in rural India, not a single one of them succeeded in lighting up these villages.
Government official, Vishal Singh is responsible for overseeing the electrification programme in 126 villages in the Jaisalmer district. Singh states that there aren’t boundaries, landmarks or maps for these villages so they had to mark out the areas that needed electricity themselves.
With Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi’s initiative for Rural Electrification in India programme has been successful in reducing the number to 12,000 from 18,452 non-electrified villages in India. That is a whopping 38% drop. Vinod Sharma, a project manager from the electricity providing company for Jaisalmer says that the government is backing them this time properly and that they are provided with equipments the very next day of the phone call being made.
On one hand some villagers are afraid to be near the light bulbs as they think that their houses will catch fire because of them but on the other hand, people can see each other’s faces clearly, things, and now the children of the village can finally have bright lights to come home to study.
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