The newest of India’s states formed in 2000, Chhattisgarh is a source of steel and electricity for most of India. Inhabited by adivasis or indigenous tribes, the thick forests of the state have for long been isolated from the rest of the country. The inaccessible and conflict-ridden nature of the region has left it relatively underdeveloped, where basic needs like education, employment and health facilities are not met adequately. Most of the villages are off the grid — ironic for a state that supplies surplus power to other states of India.

The difficulties of electrification in the jungles of Chhattisgarh led to collaboration between Tata Power Solar (TPS) and the Chhattisgarh Renewable Energy Development Agency (CREDA) in 2000. This was done with the objective to launch solar power programs like village electrification, special area development, tribal community development, etc. to suit the varying needs of the community. TPS has designed, supplied and installed solar power plants, home lighting systems, street lights, solar water pumps, lighting for hostels and ashrams with solar power packs (which are a combination of solar PV panels, an inverter and a battery), and more. Overcoming challenges of geography, superstition and insurgency, TPS team has electrified over 300 villages in the area, bringing light and power to over 10,000 people in Chhattisgarh. With TPS’s contribution, women are now able to turn traditional hobbies to businesses and children are able to study long enough to have bright futures.

TPS has involved the community in the maintenance of the modules by providing basic training to a local person, thereby promoting employment as well as self-sufficiency.

Korba District
Korba district has a large power plant, yet 25 km away, the villages in the jungle have no grid electricity. For generations, the villagers’ main source of income has been collecting and selling forest produce, small scale agriculture, raising domestic animals and tribal crafts. TPS-enabled solar projects have changed their lives – they can now spend more hours working, their children can study in the evenings, and be exposed to the world outside their village through the radio and television.
Sukh Sagar & Budhan Bai Besides his hereditary profession of collecting seasonal forest produce, Sukh Sagar works at the TPS solar power plant in his village of 30 homes.
Sukh Sagar & Budhan Bai TPS panels perched on the outhouse of one of the villager’s homes are given a God-like status by some. Instead, Sukh Sagar is appreciative of the scientific and life-changing potential of solar power.
Sukh Sagar & Budhan Bai Sukh Sagar’s wife Budhan Bai makes brooms from grass that she collects from the forest. They have a daughter, Alisha, who they plan to educate.
Belonging to an older, more sheltered generation, BudhanBai’s mother Sonabai had 12 children, seven of whom survived malaria, a common disease in the region. She does the household shopping at the ration shop, where she gets staples subsidized by the government - for example, rice is Rs 2 per kg.
Sukh Sagar & Budhan Bai Every tribal home hangs a bunch of corn from the last harvest above the hearth. This slow-roasted corn is then used as seeds for the next cropping.
Dhawaibari Village
Bandhani Bai In Dhawaibari Village, the home lighting scheme was introduced in 2008. Bandhani Bai is a widow who is a matriarch in the Manjhwar tribe. She lives in a joint family of 11, which has benefitted from the government's NREGA government employment scheme.
Bandhani Bai Puran Singh, the eldest son of the family, mends his fishing net before his next foray into the river to catch fish for the family’s dinner and for sale.
Bandhani Bai The family enjoys the benefits of the solar light and power from the incongruous little TPS panel on their common home’s thatched roof.
Bandhani Bai The large airy family home has a unique carved pattern on every alcove, an art form passed down through generations.
Bandhani Bai Bundkunwar makes leaf cups for sale in the village market as well for use at home by people – and goats!
Power for schools
The Bharat Mata School is a residential middle school established in 1972 by the Catholic Apostelate Society. It has 70 girls and 60 boys up to grade 8 who come from smaller villages and very poor families.
The TPS system installed at the off grid school gives it about five hours of light every day.
Energy at work
Chabbu Ram Dewangan runs a shop, which along with his home, receives light and power for 24 hours a day from a 1 KW capacity power plant which he solely owns. CREDA subsidized the pack up to Rs 1,68,000 while Chabbu Ram paid the balance of Rs 37,000.
Chabbu Ram He also grows vegetables, which he sells in his shop along with biscuits, soap and other essentials.
Jamuna Bai operates the printer and scanner in her supermarket, which she runs with her husband, Vijay Kumar Dewangan. They also have their own 1 KW power plant.
Jamuna Bai Since it is the only such store in the vicinity, it does brisk business for long hours enhanced by the power that the TPS solar module generates.
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