We all have been hearing about the solar micro-grid in Dharnai, Bihar, which will provide electricity access to the village deprived of power, for the last 30 years or so. It gives a sense of fulfilment and great accomplishment to us, as we have been aware of the widespread disparity in power across our country. But what exactly is the real significance of this achievement and where all can it head to, further?

24 July 2014

A solar powered street lamp at the Jitkoria Tolla, Dharnai © Vivek Muthuramalingam


I was born in Arrah, Bihar. My mother hails from Gaya (some 30 kms from Dharnai) while I was raised up in Aurangabad, Maharashtra (which back in the 90s was positioned as Asia's 5th fastest developing city; though I didn't have a clue of which were the top 4). The contrast between these two worlds has left an indelible mark on my childhood. We used to visit Bihar during my summer vacations every year. I still remember how a part of my life then, was spent in the hot summer days with temperatures soaring 40 degrees without much help from the ceiling fan and the nights lit by kerosene lanterns.. Even towns in Bihar received electricity only for some 2-3 hours a day then, while the situation was much worse in the villages. While back in Aurangabad, life was much simpler with 24hrs of electricity.

I remember telling my friends and their families back in Bihar how Aurangabad had no electricity woes and they all used to wonder in awe. It was then, that I began to realize, that Electricity was a luxury which not everyone could enjoy! It made me sad though.

And why go even as far as comparing ‘lesser known’ places for some of us. Let’s take the curious case of Delhi and Mumbai. Come summers; and the newspapers are filled with the electricity woes of the national capital while Mumbai on the other hand has no such load shedding of sorts. I’ve stayed in both these metros as well and I fail to comprehend that even after around 65 years of independence, the capital of our country lives in an acute power crisis; so much so that resolving power woes still continues to be a campaign agenda during elections.

It’s just not the story of two worlds. It’s a story of most of us who come from similar places and have faced similar problems.

But facing problems is not a matter of great concern as leaving them unattended is. We may then attempt to question, that with a robust democratic system in place which takes into consideration representatives from every corner of the country, how can such big a concern stay unresolved. It clearly speaks volumes of the lack of accountability on part of everyone. What Greenpeace, CEED and BASIX could achieve in just a matter of few months, was it so difficult for the Government and authorities even in so many years. That’s some food for thought. A lot of introspection is required!

In the light of this reality check, I guess it becomes even more essential for us to comprehend that post Dharnai Live, people living in darkness, all over, shall have hope now. What Greenpeace has been propagating for some time now, about adopting Decentralized Renewable Energy (DRE) models for electricity generation, seems to be a valid solution to the power discrepancy across the country. Imagine every village in India being powered by its very own Solar Microgrid and Electri’City’ not being an oxymoron anymore for the villagers. It shall be a huge leap in empowering villages with the ideals of self-reliance and self-sufficiency.

But this far-fetched dream comes with a condition. There is a larger responsibility and accountability expected of Governments and Authorities at the Center, State and Local Levels - more collaboration, initiative, intent and a massive will to drive this forward. There also has to be a greater onus from the larger population, from us, we the people; to demand it from our system, our representatives, to ask questions and to seek solutions. The problem has come this far also because we don’t make them feel accountable towards us. I’d like to clarify here that I am not proposing an opposition of any sorts but an involvement at different levels of the machinery with the right intent and approach.

And if all this falls in place, the road ahead, what it seems from here, is bright with assured decentralized, clean and green energy for all; and goes as far as we go.. it will go unto the sun, to lead us all into light.. perpetual light!


- Rahul Prasad

Fundraising Research Analyst with Greenpeace India