Mission RISE: Rural India Solar Electrification is one such initiative that proves this fact. It’s one of its kinds of initiative in the nation that is entirely funded and managed by the people, for the people, and of the people.
It all started in 2014 when I went on a no-money walking pilgrimage with two of my friends. It was a mad walking tour of 20 days in northern-west part of India. The idea was to connect with rural communities and explore the GUEST IS GOD attitude in our tradition.
On route, a tribal village in north Gujarat hosted us. Moved by love, we decided to do something radical in return.
Khatisitra is a little tribal village that had been in dark since time immemorial. They had never seen electricity and were using kerosene to light lamps. The monthly income of the household isn’t even INR 1,000 and using kerosene was expensive and very hazardous to the forest too. On top of this, villages have many other problems. For e.g. child marriage, deforestation, stealing wood, land issues and the scariest of them—the danger of their existence being wiped off.
Our small team took up the cause to light up the village; decided not to wait for the leaders and to do it alone. With the support of the village mentor, we decided to do a solar electrification of the entire village with the support of the common public. The cost was determined to be around INR 350,000 and we crowdfunded the whole campaign.
The villagers raised half the cost, the rest was raised with the support of micro-donations from ordinary people—friends, drivers, security guards, rag pickers, police officers, eunuchs, and once even a beggar donated a small amount. A local vendor assembled the solar lighting kits for 100 families on a no-profit-no-loss basis. Thus, the entire tribal village was lit up early this year and for the first time, they saw electricity in their homes.
The village mentor has started a homeschool. The school runs on Gandhian philosophy; based on value education. The children are bright but often face problems of getting short of stationery and books but they’re quite enthusiastic about learning new things and learning about the world outside their tribal village.
Rural tourism is a fast-growing industry—in India—and can bring change. After the solar electrification, the team decided to create an opportunity for Eco-Tourism in this pristine tribal area and make this new spot for tourism in the state. This generates a little income for the villagers and helps uplift them; economically and socially.
If determined, one can achieve anything and we proved this. Around 8,000 villages in India need electricity and such a community group can make a difference. Believe me, everyone can make a difference and everyone must try.