Clean Light for Children to Study: Million Solar Urja Lamp (SoUL) Programme

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India has one of the youngest populations in the world, with 350 million children less than 14 years of age making school education essential for future of the country. However, 221 million people residing in India are still without electricity access and many more with poor quality of supply (IEA, 2015). Many young school-going students either do not have access to alternate clean light source or suffer from erratic electricity supply, both of which affect their study during evening hours. Alongside ‘Right to Education’, it is desirable to provide ‘Right to Clean Light’ and hence there is a need for a countrywide, self-sustainable solar lamp programme.

One million Solar Urja Lamps (SoULs) were distributed during 2014–16 in four Indian states of Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, and Odisha, covering 23 districts, 97 blocks, and more than 10,900 villages. There are 54 assembly and distribution centres and 350 SRCs in operation, with training provided to 1,409 local people. While implementing, 7,35,000 lamps were distributed in just 9 months between July 2014 to March 2015, while the remaining 2,65,000 lamps in 4.5 months from November 2015 to March 2016. With 77 per cent tribal blocks (as defined by the Ministry of Tribal Affairs) and 83 per cent educationally backward blocks (as defined by the Ministry of Human Resource and Development) amongst its intervention blocks, MSP focussed on reaching the most marginalized population. The impact analysis of the MSP revealed that SoULs have replaced one kerosene wick lamp in beneficiary households, thus contributing to saving kerosene consumed for lighting. Besides, its usage for study purpose, it was an aid in various other domestic and livelihood activities.

The objective of the SoUL programme developed and executed by IIT Bombay is to provide clean light for study purpose to each and every child in the country, in the fastest possible way and in the most cost-effective manner.

Benefit and Impact of the Project

Being the central coordinating agency, expertise of IIT Bombay in solar technology, operations management, and socioeconomic impact analysis were integrated in the MSP. Assembly-cum-distribution centres were established at the block level (a unit of intervention), in premises of nine partnering NGOs.

Locals from intervention blocks were hired and trained to assemble high-quality solar study lamps, campaign, and distribute lamps to the target beneficiaries (i.e., school students enrolled between classes 5 to 12), thereby encouraging local employment, entrepreneurial skills, affordable power, upliftment of weaker sections of the society and by contributing to the cause of ‘Right to Education’.

Source: Akshay Urja Magazine, MNRE