Renewable energy may have missed the agenda of political parties but solar lights have caught the imagination of candidates as well as election officers.
Some candidates in the rural hinterlands in states like Bihar and Uttar Pradesh are trying to woo voters with solar lights, which are in great demand, while the EC deployed them to conduct polls in Maoist-hit and remote areas, where regular power supply is still a distant dream.
The business of solar lighting systems is on the rise, especially in areas which don’t have a regular power supply in remote rural areas. This election the lights have also come in handy for candidates, thanks to cost-effective ones made in China.
According to government data, about 40% of Indian villages don’t get regular power supply. However, some of them have been provided with solar electricity systems that can run a fan, a couple of lights and a TV set.
“The business of solar lighting systems in rural Bihar and UP is worth Rs 10,000 crore,” a senior official of the ministry of new and renewable energy had told HT in February. Its resonance is being felt in the 2014 summer elections, when power generation fails to meet the demand.
Election Commission sleuths in late March caught a van in Farukkabad in Uttar Pradesh carrying solar lights allegedly for distribution among voters. The local police registered a case against the candidate for violation of the model code of conduct.
In another incident, the EC’s flying squad caught a tempo carrying China-made solar lights in Patna. The lights were said to be given to nominees of some unnamed candidates for use in the elections. EC officials in Delhi said there have been a few other cases of solar lights seized in UP and Bihar but the numbers were not very large.
More than the numbers, the sporadic cases highlight the increasing demand from people in backward regions for regular power supply. “We have seen a spurt in the demand for solar lights during this election,” a senior executive of a company that manufactures and markets solar lights across India said on condition of anonymity.