Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.– Martin Luther King Jr.
Replicating the above words into actions with a quintessential purpose to bring a change in the society, four alumni from MS Ramaiah Institute of Technology (MSRIT), Bangalore have turned the dreams of hundred villagers into a reality. Through Project Belaku – they are now providing solar-based home lighting system to remote villages in Karnataka.
‘Belaku’ means light in Kannada – something we all take for granted in Cities , is a luxury to many villages. Rural families are still dependent on kerosene lamps, which causes serious respiratory and health issues.
Balachandra Hegde, Sunny Arokia Swamy, Kumaraswamy, and Kotresh Veerapur, alumni from the MS Ramaiah Institute of Technology, with the help of a few final year students and the management initiated on their dream campaign, Project Belaku.
It all started from February this year, when these four students decided to visit few villages near Joida in Uttar Kannada district, which were not electrified. The bitter truth is that these villages are around the SUPA hydro project (in the same Taluk) built to the river Kalinadi, which generates around 110MW power and transmitted to various parts of Karnataka. However, since these villages are deep inside the forest, overhead lines could not be installed.
With the help of a NGO near Joida, these boys identified nine villages – Ghatakunang, Kukkutte, Kindale, Karanjee, Soulavali, Gowliwada, Sulavali, Khangaon and Padshet. They visited these villages, surveyed the location, spoke to the locals and understood their living conditions. After analyzing all the aspects, they selected two villages – Ghatakunang and Khangaon – for electrification.
On further investigation, they concluded that solar-based system would suit these villages the best, as they receive plenty of sunlight throughout the year barring the monsoon season. The villagers prioritized home lighting system over other applications.
On returning from their survey, the boys selected 20 final year students from MSRIT to form a team of like-minded people, who would selflessly work towards designing and installing solar home lighting system to each house in the villages. The aim was to build a simple design of solar-based home lighting system and install it in two villages before monsoons for the year arrived, so they worked on a very simple and an organised timeline. As and when the project grew from an idea to a life changing experience to many villagers, what remained a big concern was the finance.
But the management of M.S. Ramaiah Institute of Technology wholeheartedly agreed to sponsor the entire project.
The design phase – Like every fresh every graduate out of college, these 4 students had a full-time career to take care of and so did the other students who were still in their final year. They managed to gracefully toggle between their academics and career to what they felt is their responsibility in contributing to a better society.
The students were no professionals but they chose to design most of the system components themselves, a hands-on experience indeed. From building a charge controller for the battery and LED lamps that work on DC supply to the final installation, these students under the supervision of the faculty members of the department of E&E, MSRIT integrated their project as a part of the testing phase.
To make the entire initiative a little more personal, they chose an auspicious Indian festival, Ugadi to install and test-run the project. As excited as these villagers were to return to a house that was well lit on a festival day, the team had successfully completed their initial phase. The overall project costed the team a total of 4.4 lakhs, which included the panels and other hardware material and their transport and stay. The villagers welcomed these students into their homes and were very good host throughout their journey.
The Installation phase- On April 7, 2016, a team of seven students, four alumni along with two faculty members, began their journey to Dharwad. They carried solar panels, batteries, and other equipment needed for the installation. In the next 2 days ; 2 villages that consisted 20 houses, were electrified with atleast hundred lives experiencing basic lights, for the first time.
On the last day of their tour, the team was felicitated by the Gram Panchayat members and all the villagers thanked them one by one.
Well, this is not the end. The team has already began its hunt for new villages and they are concentrating in reaching out to more people, one state at a time. They are expecting funds from government agencies, companies under CSR or other colleges who want to do their bit for the society. Alongside this project, they are also working by setting up medical camps and workshop centres for the all-round development of the village.
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The project changed every team member’s outlook towards life. Light, food, water and other basic amenities that the urban population claim – they have stopped taking these for granted. These students were so touched by the outcome of this project that now they wish to carry forward this work to other villages. The next phase of the project has already begun and the team is surveying new villages.
A whooping 11400 villages in India are yet to be electrified and today we can reduce the number by 2, all thanks to the team of Project Belaku. With a pace like this and an intention to bring a change in someone lives, these fresh graduates from college are setting up a benchmark and are indeed touching lives of hundreds of people.
Though Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the center has set up a target to electrify all these Indian villages by the May 1, 2018, Project Belaku is indeed a great value add.