A Generator for Diwali

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Uga Singh, a small-time farmer, proudly lights up a five-watt CFL bulb in his small hut in Niyamatpur village, 30 kilometres from Patna. It's a ray of hope for Singh, who has been living all his life so far some 50 odd years in darkness. Niyamatpur, like many villages in Bihar, has no electricity. When the sun sets, people use lanterns for light, and hand fans for air in this village of about 100 households, comprising mostly of backward and scheduled caste farmers, sharecroppers and daily-wage labourers.

The government has never heeded the demand for electricity in the village, alleges Rinki Singh, the mukhiya of Kharbhaiya panchayat, which governs Niyamatpur. And though the village was surveyed three years ago for being covered by the Rajiv Gandhi Rural Electrification Scheme, which is supposed to connect families living below the poverty line (80 per cent of Niyamatpur) to a grid, nothing has been done so far.

But Singh, like many residents of Niyamatpur, is not willing to wait any more for government help. He is finding out ways to light up his own home at least. Six months ago, he travelled to Patna to purchase a solar plate, which now charges the battery to which his five-watt CFL bulb is connected. His neighbour Rakesh Kumar Bharti, a 20-something farmer, bought a small CRT TV set, a 12-volt DC battery and a solar plate from Patna a few months ago in order to fulfil his entertainment needs, Now, he is among the four "privileged" villagers with a TV set, and his house is packed with other villagers to watch prime time news on Doordarshan. "We don't want to sulk in darkness any more, we are searching for own ways to light up our happiness," he says, hoping that his illuminated home would bolster his chances of finding a bride. "Boys from this village are often not preferred by parents of girls for marriage, thanks to the darkness here," he says.

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