Let us take you back seven years – when Shubhankar was still “Pintu”, and no one in his village had yet seen the light. The electric light, that is.
In Annpur, a village on Satjelia Island in the Sundarbans, people made do with kerosene and oil lamps because electric lines simply hadn’t reached the remote area. But Satjelia shares 21 km of its boundary with the Sundarban Tiger Reserve, making cases of tigers entering into its villages fairly common – almost 50 incidents of tigers entering villagesin the last 10 years!
But that was before 2011.
“Pintu” is now Shubhankar, a 19-year old computer teacher at the local high school and an electronics shop owner.
“Pintu” has a diploma in Computer Sciences and is currently also a student at the Institute of Technical Education, with a specialisationin electronics. And the people in his village no longer fear a straying tiger – there have been no cases of tigers straying in the last six years!
This has been made possible by the installation of the Rajatjubili solar power station in 2011 - probably the only AC solar micro grid system in India to provide round-the-clock grid quality electricity to a community living truly on the margins.
This project is a network of 60 households and shops with a solar power station of 9.63Kwp at its centre. The project itself is owned, operated and managed by a cooperative society where every consumer is also a shareholder in the project and owns 10 shares each. Every household and shop pays a monthly nominal amount of Rs 100 to the Cooperative Society.
The electrification of the village with the solar micro-grid has transformed the local market and has made it possible for the local high school to have a functional computer lab, funded by WWF-India, imparting digital literacy to more than 1200 children. Add to this the fact that tigers would stay away from a well-lit village – and we have a successful project that generally benefits both people and tigers.
This project is a recipient of the Sir William Hudson Award – top honours – at the National Engineering Excellence Awards in Canberra in 2011. This award recognises the most outstanding engineering project and is the highest accolade for a project-based award that Engineers Australia confers.