‘Urja Kranti Yatra’ will mobilise panchayats across Bihar to demand quality access to power

As the nation pays tribute to the Mahatma on his 139th birth anniversary, Greenpeace, together with a coalition of civil society groups under the banner of Bihar Renewable Energy Development Support Network, launched a parallel campaign to demand an energy revolution in the state. The Urja Kranti Yatra started from the Gandhi Ashram at Bhitiharwa, West Champaran, on a mission to mobilise village panchayats, youth leaders and local collectives to demand quick, quality access to sustainable power that can be delivered through local renewable energy solutions.

Speaking at the launch of the campaign was, Omkar Das Manikpuri, who played the role of the struggling farmer, “Natha” in Peepli Live. “With more than half of the state of Bihar lacking basic energy access, it is the duty of political parties to address the issue of energy and do so in a manner that ensures that people living in villages are not ignored. This campaign will inform and galvanise support for energy solutions that can change lives now, not five or 10 years down the line. Use your power in the election to demand renewable energy,” he exhorted the villagers present.

The Yatra will traverse 10 districts of Bihar, including Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad Yadav’s constituencies, before culminating in Patna on 27th October 2010. “The aim is to sensitise people to the merits of renewable energy, so that they can demand their political candidates and parties to include it in their agenda during these crucial Assembly elections in Bihar. It is clear that addition of large coal power plants is never going to bring electricity to the villages in the next five years. They have a right to quality power, and that can be done now by generating power right here in their village from renewable energy”, said Arpana Udupa, campaigner, Greenpeace India.

“We hope to reach out to lakhs of people across 17 districts through sarpanchs and village heads by the time we finish the Yatra on 27 October, 2010. We will communicate the demands of the people directly to the likely Chief Ministerial candidates. Ensuring that there is a clear roadmap to provide decentralised power generation, which would kick start enterprise and deliver basic development needs, should be a promise that the next CM should deliver with in the first 100 days of taking office.” said Brikesh Singh, campaigner, Greenpeace.

The Yatra will challenge the centralised approach to rural electrification and highlight the need for inclusion of renewable energy in policies. The coalition feels, that Bihar’s acute power shortage has hindered any development in the state, especially affecting the majority of the population in rural areas, who rarely see electricity meeting their energy needs. “People in Bihar have been  forced to depend on polluting and costly fuel sources such as diesel and kerosene. People are not aware of other alternatives which can empower them to manage power and improve their lives,” lamented Sr. Ellis of Fakhirana Sister’s Society, member of BREDSN.

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