A village in Barmer district, lit up by solar lights about two years ago when an oil company set up a solar power plant, is back to darkness.
The Cairn India set up the solar plant, lighting up 100 houses of Meghwalon Ki Dhani village under Rawatsar panchayat, about 20km from the Barmer district headquarters. Before this, there was no electricity in the village inhabited by Meghwals, a scheduled caste in Rajasthan.
“Darkness descended on the houses soon after the plant became dysfunctional one and a half years ago,” said sarpanch Ratanlal Chopra. “The LED (light emitting diode) bulbs and television sets in the houses became mere show pieces.”
Barmer MLA Mevaram Jain raised the issue in the state Assembly on March 25, alleging that Cairn India betrayed the people and misused the CSR (corporate social responsibility) fund. “The solar power micro grid, installed by Cairn in 2015, functioned for less than 10 months, sending the villagers back into darkness,” he said.
The village is part of an area that generates 30% of electricity consumed in the state and produces 30% of India’s crude.
Cairn bore the cost for installation of the solar grid and Sun Edison was the technical partner to ensure its smooth operation.
The micro grid connected each household to a central energy system through transportation and distribution lines. The company claimed that such a ‘pooled’ resource has the ability to supply higher peak-demand power to a household.
The company said villagers will be in charge of maintenance of the network, and formed a village power committee to monitor power supply.
The sarpanch, who took charge two years ago, said he had not heard of any such committee. “We informed the company several times about the dysfunctional plant but they reacted only two weeks ago; a team visited the place and assured us of repair. The plant continues to be dead,” he said.
A Cairn India official said the solar plant was handed over to the village in 2015. “Later we came to know about the technical snag and sought help from MNIT experts,” he told HT on the condition of anonymity.
The official said a few parts of the plant had reportedly been stolen. “Villagers have lodged a complaint. We will ensure that technical snag is rectified soon,” he added.