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Light in the Village
1 July , 2021

A ray of Light amid Covid : CSR Impact Assessment Study

This pandemic has compelled us to upgrade our healthcare infrastructure, but what about every other aspect of our life which is at stake today?

 At SoulAce, our encounters with the people across the nation is the inspiration of our endeavour to touch million lives and cater to their needs. Being in the sector for over 12-years we have always focused on creating sustainable impact at the grass-root level.

Our team visited Doitra village, Rajasthan, for the first time to conduct an impact assessment study of Solar lights installation project, for one of our CSR partner and we share one such experience from the deck.

 

Five years ago when we were living a normal life, I had the opportunity to visit Doitra, along with an NGO representative, who had worked on the solar light project for the CSR partner. We started from Jaipur via train and mapped our journey to Sirohi District, Rajasthan.

We came prepared with our itinerary, but as our train halted at Abu Road Railway Station, it did not take much time for us to understand that our itinerary would fail without any doubt. Almost all the taxis & the autos refused to take us to Doitra. I still remember their exact words, “Don’t go there sir, there is nothing, you will get nothing to come back to station” .

Indeed, we were heading towards a very remote location. But by grace of luck, we found a jeep to Swaroopganj. This place seemed to be the last spot with proper shops and stores, so we managed our breakfast there before moving any further. The only transportation available there was a jeep that ferried the villagers twice a day, and finally we arranged some space on the roof of the jeep which took us to the village.

We noticed the untold rules that were followed in the jeep. While the women would sit inside the jeep, men sat on the roof. But when there are more passengers than the jeep could accommodate, people would not even hesitate to hang by the jeep to reach their destination.

After travelling for three hours, it was almost afternoon when we reached the village. It was a very serene place with the features of a conventional village, which lacked proper housing or roads. People lived there in small huts made of hand-made tiles while some were living in hovels made of wood and weeds.

The village sarpanch recognised and introduced us to the villagers. The villagers were extremely warm and kind. We could sense their excitement about the solar lights. Although solar lights were installed in only few houses and common community areas, the villagers were hopeful to have lights in every house someday.

On our request the village Sarpanch asked the villagers to gather at the Panchayat meeting area.

Aarti, mother of two children, shared with us how solar lights have changed her life. Earlier, she had to complete preparing meals for dinner before sunset to avoid usage of kerosene lamps or candles. Her husband is the only earning member at their house and they could not afford to buy kerosene so frequently. They were able to save some money if all the household work was done during the day. Similarly, her children also had to complete their homework in the daylight itself. But it was exceedingly difficult for them to manage everything during the day.

Both of her children would go to school during the day and once they are back, they would go with their friends to play. It was difficult to restrict them and make them study in the afternoon. Due to the circumstances, the performance of her children in school had started degrading. And as she had to manage all the house courses herself, she also could not give time to her family as well, during the day. Her husband would be back from work before sunset and they used to have their dinner together and by 8 o’clock in the evening, the whole village would be asleep.

We communicated with the youths of the village and realised that lack of electricity was a major issue leading to school dropouts. Moreover, due to the absence of electricity, people here were completely detached from the other parts of the state and the country.

But after the installation of solar lights in the village, many things have changed. Now women do not necessarily need to complete all their work before sunset. They get more time to spend with their family. Children get more time to study and complete their assessments on time.

Previously, no one used to step out of their home after dark, even in extreme needs, but with the boon of electricity, moving within the local area has become easier for them. Villagers affirmed that they feel safe at night with the presence of light on streets.

The CSR project, which was implemented by the NGO partner, had covered 10% households in the village as a pilot project. But with the positive response received from the villagers, especially from the village Sarpanch, scaling up this project is ought to be beneficial for the villagers.

One of the villagers, Anant, our guide in the village, told us that on the first day everyone was so excited to have lights in their home that for the next few days no one turned it off. He accompanied us to the Panchayat office, Anganwadi Centre, temple, etc. where the solar lights were installed.

We spent the night at the Panchayat office thinking how difficult it must have been for the villagers without electricity for so many years. But maybe it was their positive energy and hope that kept them going. We could only imagine when the whole village gets lighted up, how alluring this place would become.

Now, recalling these memories during this period of health crisis in the country, I wonder maybe now they have the electricity to light up their future, but did they have access to any quality health centre when I visited them?

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