It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to state that hundreds of specially-abled children and their families consider Tirupati-based Madhu Babu and his wife D Varija to be their guardian angels.
Parents to specially-abled children themselves, the couple has brought in strides of positive impact since 2010, through their novel initiative—Parents Association for Children with Special Needs (PAC).
However, away from the limelight, Babu has single-handedly ushered in another nationwide change in the domain of energy conservation.
By motivating school children to save electricity in their daily lives, Babu’s endeavour—Energy Conservation Mission of India—has gone on to save over 6 million units of electricity since 2012. In monetary terms, the saving amounts to nearly Rs 1.5 crores in electricity bills annually.
Speaking to The Better India, he shares the small incident that prompted him to spearhead this initiative.
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A small idea that went a long way
“In 2012, power cut issues were rampant in the country, including our town of Tirupati. I probed into the matter and discovered that from villages to Tier 1 cities— none were exempt from this menace. While the power cuts lasted for around 12 hours in villages, the duration was around 4 hours on average in Tier 2 cities while top metropolises experienced around 1 hour of power failure daily,” informs Babu.
To combat the problem, the government’s key strategy was to raise awareness among the citizens about energy conservation, starting from their homes.
“I discovered that national-level painting competitions on energy conservation were being held every year under government directives—as a primary step towards implementing the concept. The idea failed to impress me personally. I felt that the children had immense potential to conserve energy and came up with an idea,” he recounts.
Babu printed some cards for school children participating in the Tirupati session of the painting competition, where he was a volunteer. At the end of the event, he handed over one card to each child and briefly explained the concept to them.
The card was simple. On one side, Babu had printed a series of essential energy-saving tips for a student to follow at his home, like switching off the lights when leaving the room, allowing more natural light in the daytime etc. On the other side, space had been kept for the participants to record their meter readings for consecutive two months, and notice the reduction.
“I announced that after two months, the highest energy saver would receive a special award. And thus began the very first edition of the Best Energy Saver Competition which is now active in eight states and cities of India,” Babu reveals.
The unprecedented impact
The impact was immediate—Babu observed school children around him thrilled to switch off lights and fans on time, or insist that their parents also follow the same strategies.
After two months, 183 cards were submitted to him with detailed meter readings, and he meticulously examined the readings and noted that around 22 units of energy were saved in a month on average. This was a never-before achievement, and Babu’s name was featured in the Limca Records for this astonishing success.
The winning students were presented with solar lamps and appliances.
The word about the competition spread like wildfire, as school students geared up to save electricity as much as possible. Babu created a team of volunteers from amongst engineering college students who visited schools and educated kids about the A to Z of energy conservation in daily life.
But his mission was hardly bereft of challenges.
Complaints from irked parents started coming in soon. One IAS officer complained that his daughter was inviting all the dust by opening the window curtains in the daytime for ‘natural light.’
While another family complained about how their son’s excess enthusiasm about switching off lights ended up injuring his grandfather.
But amid all this, there was increasing appreciation about Babu’s efforts from all quarters. The nature of the complaints made him realise how his efforts were effective in educating the children. All he needed to spend was barely 10 rupees on each child!
Nationwide implementation of his idea
Babu dreamed of popularising the competition beyond the boundaries of Tirupati, and soon, it was replicated in other cities and districts across Andhra Pradesh. Following this, he wanted to leave a nationwide footprint through his efforts, but as his finances did not permit that, UK-based corporate firm Mott MacDonald came to his rescue. With financial sponsoring from them, Babu could effectively collaborate with schools and colleges in other states.
As of now, Babu’s competition is periodically organised in states of Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, Goa, Kerala, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu as well as in Delhi, Puducherry and Bengaluru. The present number of nationwide participant students in the same stands at six lakhs. “We have received the most promising results from Andhra Pradesh and Delhi,” he quips.
“We have only recorded the direct savings in electricity, but the ripple effect of the awareness must also be mentioned,” he reminds us, while speaking about how the participating students have often managed to educate their families and even communities!
Alongside the competition, he also organised ecotourism tours and exhibitions on household electric appliances for the school students.
Babu, however has one regret: he failed to influence adults as much as the children. “I have organised energy-saving workshops for adults in corporate firms but found them to be least enthusiastic about it. But, the children are the most promising force to bring the change our nation needs urgently!”
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)