Here is some good news for those living below the poverty line and who do not have any access to electricity. The government is planning to empower them with “solar-powered” lights.
A high-powered panel headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is examining a proposal to use a part of the Rs 34,000-crore subsidy on kerosene to procure solar lanterns for below-poverty-line (BPL) households.
The Energy Coordination Committee recently discussed a proposal to use 10 per cent of subsidy on kerosene to buy these lanterns that cost Rs 4,000 a piece, and distribute it directly to BPL families, a senior government official said on condition of anonymity.
Transporting the lanterns to remote locations would be far easier and time saving than providing electricity to these far-flung areas of the country, he said. As per government estimates, India had about 2.6 crore people living below poverty line in 2004-05.
If the proposal is implemented, more than 50 lakh households could be provided with these zero maintenance, smoke free and long-lasting lanterns that can light up an area of about 100 square feet. As solar lanterns are smoke free, the risk of respiratory damage from inhaling kerosene fumes would also reduce considerably.
Solar energy use is growing at 30 per cent worldwide and is most compatible with Indian conditions, the official said. The country receives about 300 clear, sunny days in a year, he said, equal to over 5,000 trillion kilowatts — far more than the total annual energy consumption of the country. As per market estimates, India has about 3.85 lakh solar lanterns in use.
Each lantern, on an average, saves 100 litres of kerosene each year, hence the move would help bring down kerosene consumption and, in turn, atmospheric pollution.