According to reports, till recently, it used to be a routine walk for P Alagarsami and his friend T Pandiarajan, residents of Meenakshipuram in Sirumalai village to go up to the highest peak in their hill village in the late evenings and gaze at the colourful lights of Madurai city twinkling in far horizon. Their curiosity was due to fact that their village never had any electricity. But, now they have lights in the village thanks to solar power and the two friends are now wondering at the beauty of their electrified village. “When the solar lights were installed two weeks ago, the village got electricity for the first time of its existence,” mentioned S Suresh, a villager.
The National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (Nabard) of Madurai district was working in the village along with a Vadipatti-based NGO, Centre for Rural Education and Development (CERD) on biodiversity and livelihood development programmes from 2008. During their work, the need for electricity was strongly felt in the region. Situated above 1,600m mean sea level and nestled in the reserve forest area, the Indian gaurs and other small animals used to scare the 102 families living in the village. The installation of lights will keep the animals from straying into the village, say the villagers. They approached the Bank of India branch in Vadipatti under the Rajiv Gandhi Farmer Club which sanctioned loans for the installation of the lights. While 30 houses have been provided with the solar equipment and lights, 30 more households have applied for the same and are expected the equipment soon.
On Wednesday, district collector, L Subramanian declared the village as a solar village during a function held amidst much jubilation. The villagers also said that the efforts are being taken to bring the power from the grid.
R Ramkumar of Parvathi Power Systems, who installed the equipment said that it cost Rs 15,000 for a 37W solar panel and four compact fluorescent lamps (CFL) of 9W each. Ten percentage of the cost will be contributed by the beneficiaries while the rest are bank loans in which Rs 3,996 will be subsidy.
The bank officials said that the village has excellent track record of paying back the loans. CERD has formed two women self-help groups earlier in 2008 and the BOI, Vadipatti branch has lent the women Rs 8 lakh as agricultural loans. N Annamalai, business development manager of BOI said that they were impressed with the commitment of women in paying back the bank loans earlier which helped to sponsor the solar power to the village at present.
Expressing their joy, the villagers said that they are grateful to all the agencies and district administration enabling them to get the much coveted electricity through solar power.