This is India at its best. Take a pause and review the story so far. We see no struggle, no acrimony, no blaming. The state cannot wire electricity to India's inaccessible terrains. [Most countries in the world don't, either.] So a problem remains unsolved. Then an academic brings his knowledge to bear on it. Dedicated bureaucrats seek him out. At least in AP and quite a few other states politicians back the civil servants. State's funds are made available. People are shown how they can do it themselves. India's hardy folk take it from there. And soon as they get a break, they urge their children to learning. From where then, comes the urge to portray this social system as venal and moribund? Unless of course, it is from the compulsions of a commerce to fill newsprint and airtime.
Within days of Chalbardi being electrified, villages within miles were --in a manner speaking-- electrified too: they wanted their own power plants. In the months since mid- 2001, 10 forest villages in Adilabad have followed the Chalbardi model. The SuTRA team is deeply involved in disseminating the idea of SVO as fuel alternatives. It is working with people and learning from them. It has near enough perfected a standard format. Here is the pattern, give or take a few details. The gensets are uniformly 7.5 kva of Kirloskar make with an eye on standardisation. Power is supplied for three hours after dusk. Each household pays Rs.5 per month [--that is about $ 0.10 !] plus, 300 kg per year of shelled Pongamia seeds. These seeds they gather from the forest floor, bring home, shell and deliver, the while committed to the sustainability of their forest world. The power plant is run profitably with the sale of excess oil and all of the oil cake. Mr N. Sridhar IAS, the current ITDA project officer in Utnoor is a great enthusiast for the idea taking it further down the road.
New leaders, technicians and jobs have sprung up. In the village of Powerguda the formidable Ms. Subhadra Bai leads a women's self help group [SHG] that runs a no-nonsense oil mill business. Gatherers are paid Rs.5/ kg of shelled seeds. The SHG mills and markets 3000 litres per month at Rs.20 per litre. There is a huge waiting list and people come from far. Five more expellers have come up. Govinda Rao is a wandering minstrel spreading word of the SVO miracle. Young lads have become adept at repairing and maintaining all equipment. Children are going up the learning curve. The Ghonds have begun to look at their ancient habitat with renewed love.