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Let There Be Light: Over a Million Rural Students Benefit From IIT- Bombay’s Solar Lamps!

A group of students from IIT (Indian Institute of Technology)- Bombay have initiated a project called ‘Solar Urja Lamps’ aimed to utilise clean energy that provides study lamps to rural students.

You may have heard of scientists and innovators recalling how they studied under a kerosene lamp. Although their resilience and willpower are a part of their foundation, future scientists will not have to rely on kerosene lamps to continue studying after dark!

A group of students from IIT (Indian Institute of Technology)- Bombay have initiated a project aimed to utilise clean energy that provides study lamps to rural students. This project, called ‘Solar Urja Lamp’ (SoUL) has not only helped students but has also contributed towards skill enhancement and employment in over 10,000 villages across the country.

According to the SoUL team, an estimated 81.2 million students in India use kerosene lamps for their basic lighting needs.

Not only are these lamps an insufficient source of light in a country where LED bulbs light up an entire room, but are also extremely harmful to health.

A kerosene lamp used to read. Source.

Harshad Supal, a member of the technical team of SoUL, told Asian Age, “We fail to realise but kerosene lamps emit carbon dioxide fumes which are inhaled by the children causing damage to their body. Also, as these lamps are inflammable, there are high chances of mishaps like fire causing burn injuries or even death.”

Chetan Singh Solanki, a professor in IIT-Bombay, said that these solar lamps will come in two modules—one will have an LED lamp with a solar panel placed outdoors, while the second will also carry a mobile charging pin with a battery life of 10-12 hours.

The need to provide a sustainable and clean power source in rural India is widespread and urgent.

Keeping this need in mind, the SoUL team implemented the “Million Solar Urja Lamp Programme (MSP)” in 2014-16.

Sources: Million SoUL/ Million SoUL

The team collaborated with NGOs and the State Level Rural Livelihood Mission to bring these solar lamps to villages in India.

“The emphasis was on ‘localisation of solar energy’ through the active involvement on local communities in [the] entire implementation process, which included assembly, distribution and repair & maintenance of solar study lamps, by transfer of skills and knowledge of technology,” says the team.

According to the Ministry of New & Renewable Energy (MNRE), “Locals from intervention blocks were hired and trained to assemble high-quality solar study lamps, campaign, and distribute lamps to the target beneficiaries (i.e. school students enrolled between classes 5 to 12)”

So far, the team has successfully benefitted around 1 million students in the states of Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha and Rajasthan.

The villages where the lamps have been distributed so far. Source.

The MNRE has also decided to take this project further. It has sanctioned a scheme with an aim to provide these lamps to 70 lakh more students. The “70 Lakhs Solar Study Lamp Scheme” will benefit students in Assam, Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha and Uttar Pradesh.

According to the IIT website, blocks will be the unit of intervention and have been identified based on the following parameters:

1. Blocks with more than 50% households dependent on kerosene as their main source of lighting as per census, 2011.

2. Blocks with a significant percentage of scheduled tribes and scheduled caste population.

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