A reign of darkness and its end: Solar Loans

September 11, 2017
By Rang De Team
The Kotra tehsil in Udaipur, Rajasthan is a remote tribal region without access to grid-based electricity

When evening descends on the Kotra Tehsil in Udaipur district of Rajasthan, there are entire villages that get enveloped in a sheet of darkness. Kotra is a predominantly tribal area and the people of the region are primarily agriculturists or wage labourers. Despite the relative prosperity of Udaipur city — one of the major urban and tourist centres of Rajasthan which is just an hour and a half away by road — Kotra has continued to remain backward. In many villages in the region, essential amenities like transportation, electricity and health care are missing.

On paper, the government claims that 30% of Kotra region is electrified, but the numbers are not borne out by experience on the ground.

Even houses that are nominally electrified — with poles put up and wires pulled through — are usually devoid of electricity. Looking at how people in these villages are trying to cope with the lack of access to electricity is educative.

A life without electricity

Most of the people in Kotra make do with kerosene lamps or other traditional forms of fuel. But kerosene is expensive, and inhaling the fumes from the fire in the cramped spaces of the household takes an enormous toll on the health of the people. Young school students returning home are often unable to study and find that the spare lamps are put to use by the women to cook food. The lack of electricity has crippled various other services in the region, stunting economic development.

The lack of a basic resource like electricity also affects services like healthcare, education and other essential services

Just how much of a precious and valued resource electricity is in Kotra is illustrated by the numerous ‘charging shops’ in the Kotra market. These shops have display boards with multiple plug points, where mobile phones steadily get charged. People from nearby villages walk all the way to the market — with the slightly prosperous taking the public rickshaws — to avail of these services.

Every time a phone is fully ‘charged’, the shop owner sees it fit to levy a fee of Rs 10.

The persistent lack of electricity has prompted various solar companies to make forays into the market in Kotra. A few years back, the state government went around distributing cheap solar devices. The substandard quality of many of the devices often mean they stop working after a few months of use.

The lack of adequate servicing at the doorstep, falling short of the infamous ‘last mile’, has meant that many of these solar devices fall into disuse, never to picked up again.

Green loans for a bright future

During our field visit to the villages in Kotra, the situation on the ground compelled us to look beyond traditional livelihood and education loans. Over the past few months, we have designed ‘green energy loans’ which will help provide many households with the necessary finance to adopt solar energy.

Rang De along with the SELCO Foundation and Kotra Adivasi Sansthan is working to provide households in Kotra with individual solar units to generate electricity

We’ve also joined hands with other organisations like the SELCO Foundation in Bengaluru and the Kotra Adivasi Sansthan (KAS), a local NGO in Kotra, to design interventions and programs for the uptake of solar energy. These solar loans are not income-generating but there is no doubt about their enormous potential in improving the general quality of life of people in the region. These loan products have also been designed to make repayment comfortable for the villagers in Kotra.

With the funds that that we raise with your help, the reign of darkness that swiftly falls over the villages of Kotra, come dusk, could soon be a thing of the past.

Make an investment of Rs. 100 or more and help us provide electricity to the villages in Kotra, Rajasthan. Support other borroweers in Rajasthan here