Solar energy lighting up lives in remote Tripura village
Solar energy panels being set up in Tripura

Agartala: Rabi Jamatia has a nickname. A resident of Kharansingh Kami Para, about 70 km from Agartala city, Rabi is known as the ‘Charger Man’. The 26-year-old is a farmer by profession and a ‘charger’ at night when he ensures that no matter the electricity situation in his village, everyone’s phone has ample charge for uninterrupted communication. 

“For the last four years, despite the electricity department’s intervention, our electricity issue remained unresolved. To keep the village connected with the rest of the state, we needed to charge our mobile phones. We may not have a fast internet connection here, but communication through phone is important, especially in case of emergencies,” he said.

The Charger Man moniker comes from the mobile phones that Rabi collects, most of which are either low on battery or already dead. He then takes them to the nearest market. “Some phones are charged at relatives’ and friends’ homes, and if this option is unavailable, we pay Rs 10 per two hours of charge in local shops. This way, we keep all our phones charged,” he added. But Rabi also believes that Charger Man will soon become irrelevant, and he is not complaining. 

The newly-installed solar microgrids have replaced the faltering traditional grid power. “The officials have been frequently visiting our village. Since I am capable of speaking Hindi and a little English, officials search for me whenever they come here. Two big solar panels have been installed on two sides of the village. The officials told us that these two panels are capable enough to meet the electricity requirement of the village and that has been proven in the test runs. We hope this long-standing issue will ultimately be resolved,” he pointed out.  

This village has been adopted under the Bio-village solar hamlet project, the first of its kind all over the country. “The Bio-village is a project that exists all over the country which promotes organic farming and natural way of generating income through livestock rearing and other income avenues. In Tripura alone, this project has been tagged with the solar hamlet project of Tripura Renewable Energy Development Agency (TREDA) and this village has been taken up as the pilot project,” said Joint Director TREDA Debbrata Sukla Das.

The 60-odd residents of the Kharansingh Kami Para witnessed a sea change when their village was dotted with solar streetlights.

Chandra Kanta Jamatia, a resident, said, “Five years back, our village was electrified for the first time. But within a year, the transformation started to malfunction. Even if it is fixed, it would go out of order. But after installing solar street lights, the problems have been resolved to a large extent. The main road that connects all the homes like a thread has received ample street lights. Even if our homes are in the dark, we now can spend some time under the street lights.”

Mangaleshwari Jamatia, who sells snacks and sliced cucumber in the evening in the village, said, she is happy as she does not have to worry about the lights in her street stall. “Now people come here in the evening and stay for hours to participate in evening conversations,” said Jamatia.

Apart from street lights, seven Biogas plants were also distributed among locals who have cattle in their households. Jamatia, a beneficiary of the project, said, “Before the biogas plant, we had to collect firewood from the hills where we do Jhum–shifting cultivation.”

He pointed out that most locals remain largely dependent on firewood. According to Jamatia, given the state’s socio-economic condition, it is hard for them to afford gas cylinders. Some villagers also revealed that a lot of outstanding electricity Bills are pending to be cleared by the villagers.

Joint Director of TREDA Debabrata Sukladas said, “Six components have been distributed among the villagers. Solar-run water purifier with a capacity of 45,000 litres per day is one of them. Before the purifier, people were dependent on a rivulet passing by the village. We have also distributed solar-powered pumps for irrigation purposes. Two micro solar grids have been installed for uninterrupted supply electricity and several other supports under the Bio village scheme are being extended to the villagers.”

He added that Rs 70 lakh has been spent for the installation of the solar energy-based equipment and machinery across the village and the project will be very likely to be inaugurated a few days after Durga Puja.

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