27 Nov Project Chirag
India’s heart beats in its villages. An estimated 70% of its population lives in rural India. Yet the divide between the India that Goldman Sachs called a BRIC nation and the India that Indians call Bharat is painfully real. 72,000 villages with approximately 400 million Indians do not have access to power in any form. Their day ends when the sun goes down. About 2 years back, the Students in Free Enterprise at H.R.College of Commerce & Economics in Mumbai (SIFE HRC) decided to visit some of these villages and the reality was rather unnerving. They realized that just 4-5 hours out of their beloved megapolis Mumbai, their brother and sister Indians lived in unbelievably poor conditions. So they decided that they would take it upon themselves to bring about rural transformation in these dark villages.
This led to the germination of Project Chirag, a model that looked at rural transformation with the introduction of light into the lives of these villagers, which will act as the vital spark that will put in motion an entire socio – economic change. Students went out and identified Ujjaini in Wada Taluka as their first target village. Passionate about being a part of the change and making the change affordable, they came up with an innovative fund raising campaign called “10 Rupees for Light” in which they encouraged their co-students to contribute anything in multiples of Rs.10 towards lighting up a rural household. In just short span of 4 days students raised over Rs. 5 lakhs (USD 11,000) and marched on to light up Ujjaini on March 12, 2010. Villages are identified along with NGO’s involved in rural development work. Project Chirag partnered with ‘Pragati Pratishthan’ to work with villages in Maharashtra and ‘Friends of Tribal Society’ to work with villages outside Maharashtra. One of the unique stakeholders of the project are the members of the paraplegic community who help assemble the solar equipments – A perfect example of one community empowering another. From fund raising to actually installing the equipment in every hut, to enlightening villagers about the use of solar vis-a-vis kerosene, this is a complete student initiative.
The result, students returned humbled and enlightened. Their muse….An old lady with failing eyesight recovering from a cataract surgery with her 7 year old grandson who had seen light for the first time in the 7 years of his life and the gratitude and joy in her voice when she shared her excitement and said “It doesn’t matter I can’t see. I am thrilled that my grandson can now lead an enlightened life”. As the group drove away into the dusk, they knew that the smiles that lit up the villagers faces once the solar lights were switched on, would remain forever etched in their hearts and be the motivation to light up even more lives.
Student enthusiasm and zeal was at an all time high, evident by their efforts to light up 33 villages in the next 8 months providing light to 1000 rural houses in Maharashtra, India. If a group of 30 students could create this impact, one wondered what magic could be created if this initiative enveloped more students into its fold.
This saw the evolution of Project Chirag into the “Chirag Light India Movement”. Students from the age 12 upwards joined hands and pledged their vision of “Light for All”. To initiate the movement, students took on the challenge to light up another 1000 rural houses, and this time, in just a month and not only in Maharashtra. It was amazing to see the energy and conviction in these young students that made this seemingly impossible dream a reality. Students from schools like Queen Mary School, B.D. Somani International School, NSS Hillspring International School, Jamnabai Narsee,Fazlani L’Academie Globaleand many others partnered in the movement. Principal of H.R. College and also Hon. Sheriff of Mumbai – Dr.(Mrs.) Indu Shahani and Faculty Advisor – Prof. Pratibha Paihave been really supportive to the students at all points of time. They have wholeheartedly supported the initiative and have given administrative and mentorship support to take this initiative to the next level.
Injust one year, students have been able to light up 71 villages impacting 2252 households across Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka impacting more than 13,000 villagers.
Sounds incredible, but that is what the collective power of the youth is capable of doing. It is not about talking, it’s about doing. It’s not about problems, it’s about solving them. It’s not about having vision, it is about putting dates to those visions and making them goals. It is finally about contributing that small drop towards making “India Shining” in the true sense.
As its Impact grows in India, here’s an idea, a concept that we are trying to initiate and replicate in various parts of the world simultaneously to make it a better and happier place to live in, to give people basic facilities they deserve, to give them a chance to develop holistically – a chance every individual deserves, a chance to live with Dignity.
If you would like to make a difference and feel can contribute to this cause in any way or would like to know more, please feel free to get in touch with me on firstname.lastname@example.org or the team at Project Chirag.