MAHINDRA & MRIDA TRANSFORMING LIVES IN KUSHINAGAR
The grid provides power for nearly five or six hours on a daily basis, three to four hours after sunset and one or two hours before sunrise. The idea is to provide electricity during the time of optimal consumption by families. This allows children to study till late in the evening and early in the morning. The women too do not have to struggle to cook their meals in the dark or finish their chores before sunset.
Various livelihood generation opportunities such as basket weaving (Traditional baskets called “Dhori”), other handicrafts and other activities such as pickle making, spice grounding etc., are identified to enhance their income levels and make the use of light during evening.
Solar LED Street Lights
The number of street lights in a village range from 3 to 10 depending on the size of the hamlet and the households covered. With street lights, people are able to move around in the village without fear and the number of insect bites have also come down.
These e-hubs are run by Village Level Entrepreneurs (VLEs) chosen from among the youth of the village. One such E-Hub is in Chakhni Bhumiyari Patti village and another in Village Jhajhawa.
The VLE pays a down payment of Rs 15,000 and pays an equated monthly instalment (EMI) of Rs 1,500. The proceeds of the EMI go to the VDC. The E-Hub has an internet connection, a smart inverter, a laptop, a multi-functional printer and an LED projector. The projector has a built-in interactive learning curriculum with animated audio-visual school content for math, science and environmental science in Hindi and English from kindergarten to Class 12. The students pay a monthly fee of Rs 50 and the main earnings for the VLE comes from the e-commerce services like mobile recharge, filing of online forms, and other services like lamination, projector renting, data entry, typing and printing of marriage cards and passport size pictures.
The energy access program in Kushinagar district has helped in reducing kerosene consumption by 8000 litres, thus reducing 21.64 tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) till date. There is an annual potential to save 4,622 litres of kerosene and reduce CO2 emissions by 11.66 tonnes. The program has impacted the lives of nearly 2,500 people in over 400 households and generated a number of livelihood initiatives in Kushinagar. Social and economic empowerment, a clean environment, and energy access are important components of the program. Moving forward, the VLE-based model is also being explored. Under this, Mrida could initially finance the setting up of solar microgrids with some down payment from willing village entrepreneurs, who could take up the activity of electrifying the villages.
With Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) funding from Mahindra and Mahindra, Mrida launched the “MPowered Village Program” in 2015-16, in the un-electrified villages of Kushinagar. Eleven villages have been covered so far under the program in this district. In all, there are 18 microgrids for 259 households, 69 street lights, 2 Solar-powered e-hubs and 3 battery-run rickshaws. A total of 404 Households are being benefitted though this program.
Although funding comes from the sponsoring company’s CSR for infrastructure, under the MPowered Village Program the overriding principles are is “nothing for free” and “self-sustainability”. Engaging the community at every stage and building local leadership are essential components of the program to ensure sustainability.
To achieve this, a village development committee (VDC) is elected from among the villagers. The VDC is assigned the responsibility of maintaining accounts and collecting payments for getting connections to the grid and monthly charges from the beneficiary households for two LED bulbs and a mobile charging point per household. A separate bank account has been opened for the village development fund in these villages. The VDC is responsible for managing the microgrid as well as the funds used for grid maintenance and other development initiatives. The revenues earned are ploughed back into livelihood initiatives to raise the income level of villagers. The Village Development Committees (VDCs) takes care of the maintenance and safety of the microgrids.