Can we imagine life without electricity? In today’s day and age of television, mobile phones and other gadgets, it seems impossible. But many people in rural India have never ever seen an electric bulb, leave alone benefited from its many other uses that we in the cities are lucky to enjoy everyday.
In many Indian villages, life comes to a standstill as soon as the sun sets – food has to be cooked before it gets dark and children have to finish their studies. The alternative is the dim light of kerosene lamps, and the oil for these lamps is not affordable for the poor. Farms without electricity cannot use tubewells and borewells to irrigate their fields, people cannot charge their phones to call family and friends, there are no fans to cool homes in the summer heat, and there is, of course, no television that brings in news of the outside world.
Here are some stories from eight villages around the country that were recently electrified under the Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana. The impact, expectedly, has been amazing.
1. Chepana NC Village, Baksa district, Assam
Picture for representation only. Source: Flickr
This village was established in 1970 and had no electricity since then. Residents Pradip Swargiary and Samar Bodo told government representatives that the lack of electricity had varied effects on their lives – from adversely affecting the education of their children, to low agricultural productivity. Moreover, their basic needs such as fans during hot summers or charging points for mobile phones could not be met. After the village got access to electricity, the villagers feel they can achieve anything. Life’s conveniences have increased manifold and the presence of lighting at night allows household chores like cooking to be done after dark as well.
2. Bandarjan Grant Village, Sivasagar district, Assam
This village did not have electricity since independence. Consequently, the village residents faced several problems in day-to-day life. One unique problem mentioned by Khagen Mech, a resident of Kachari basti in the village, was the destruction of paddy fields by wild elephants in the region. He was happy that with the arrival of electricity, electric barricades could be erected to counter the elephant menace.
3. Damdama Village, Jamui district, Bihar
“Our children also used to study under kerosene lamplight, which adversely affected their eyesight,” says Sikandar Kumar, one of the residents of Damdama village, adding that before access to electricity, the residents of the village had always been using kerosene for cooking and lighting purposes.
4. Udmari village, Nagaon district, Assam
The residents of Udmari village have seen electricity for the first time in 30-40 years. According to villagers Amina Begam and Ataur Rahman, earlier they used kerosene lamps for lighting at night time. However, since most families depended on cultivation and fisheries for subsistence, buying kerosene daily was not affordable for them. For agricultural purposes, they used diesel pumps, which were very costly to operate. With the provision of electricity after so many years, life has drastically changed for the better.
5. Nuaon village, Buxar district, Bihar
A village resident Akhilesh Kumar Singh recalls the problems before there was electricity in the village.
“In summers, ladies and children at home during the day faced the ill-effects of heat waves. Moreover, poorly lit parts of the village were a threat to safety at night”. However, all this has changed with access to electricity in the village. “Flour mills and motors are also used in the village now,” Akhilesh adds.
6. Safari village, Saran district, Bihar
Rajeshwar Rai recalls that women in this village especially faced a lot of problems in performing daily chores such as cooking and sewing after sundown. “Now, even youngsters are starting small businesses using electricity in the village,” he said proudly.
7. Adaparaigondi habitation (9 households), Visakhapatnam district, Andhra Pradesh
“We lived in the dark for years. We didn’t have mobile phones for contacting our relatives living in other parts of the state,” says Vanthala Srinu. Now, he is using a fan and is also planning to purchase a television. He also has a mobile phone that can be charged at his home.
8. Pedapadmapuram habitation (15 households), Srikakulam district, Andhra Pradesh
Not having seen electricity till date in their habitation, Savara Jyoti is overjoyed with this development. “Now our children will be able to study during night time and we can cook food easily at night and in the early mornings” she says. They also have streetlights for safer roads at nights.