The light of life

While Pune city glitters with lights from urban residences and commercial spaces, a visit to neighbouring villages and talukas just an hour away can be like travelling back in time. Places like Maval taluka, Ambegaon, Uran and Raigad zila are barely one to two hours away from Pune, a city at the height of urbanization with talks of skybuses and wi-fi spots, these places are not even connected to the state power grid.

The Katkari tribals, the fishing people who dwell in these villages, complete their evening chores, lit by old-school kerosene lamps and candles. Televisions, computers and fans are foreign concepts to these people who struggle to earn enough money to pay for the kerosene for their lamps.

Green Energy Foundation, a city-based NGO has launched the Arunodaya Project to give the Katkaris a sustainable solution and bring light into their lives solar lamps. The project hopes to provide solar lamps to 2,000 families by December in an effort that kick-started on November 11, with 225 such lamps being distributed at the Chikhalse hamlet in Ahirwade village. There, the family members were first introduced to the lamps and then trained in their use and how to troubleshoot in case they face any problems with the device. Each family is then given one lamp to use for their evening activities.

13-year-old Tukaram Thakar looks forward to poring over his books in the evenings with the help of the lamp. "As we we work during the day, now we can study in the evening and can keep up with school work," he says. In another house, Laxmibai Jakhu rejoiced the fact that she could now cook with ample light and her eyes would not smart from the burning kerosene any more.

"Ahirwade is just three km away from Kanhe Phata, which is an area busy with construction. The disparity between these two areas is ironic. Several other villages we plan to visit are not even approachable by vehicles and can only be reached on foot, such as Tungi, near Karjat," says Sharmila Oswal, president of the NGO. The organisation intends to visit Fale next, where volunteers will distribute 17 lamps to the families there.

"Right now our priority is to get in as many helping hands as possible as we need lots of volunteers to pull off the project. People are volunteering for both field visits and managing the logistics. We are also thinking of tying up with other NGOs to divide the cost and the effort," adds Oswal. The project is currently funded by the NGO, along with donations from corporate, housing societies and schools. "Several children decided to save their firecracker money and donate it to us instead. Several people have sent in donations ranging from small to big amounts and many people are trying to help," Oswal concludes optimistically.

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