Eighty-two-year-old Neem Singh of Sarguwala village in western Rajasthan’s Barmer district never thought he would see electric light in his lifetime. Three generations of his ancestors had lived without electricity.
This month, Singh’s house lit up with solar energy when Sarguwala and 18 other border villages in the district got solar connections under the Chief Minister Rural Electrification Scheme.
Under the scheme, each household gets 5 LED bulbs, one ceiling fan and a charging socket.
“Before we got solar power connections, we used kerosene lamps to light up our lives,” said 47-year-old Bhakhar Singh of Dhundoda village.
The Jodhpur discom gave 1,420 solar power connections to 9 villages that come under the Desert National Park (DNP) with a cost of ₹2.92 crore, said executive engineer Ashwani Bohra. This, he added, benefitted 770 above-poverty-line and 650 BPL families. In the second phase, the scheme will bring light to 1,400 hamlets (dhanis).
Development activities have been restricted in DNP since 1980 to protect the park’s ecology.
The villages come under Sheo constituency which BJP leader Manvendra Singh represents in the state assembly. He raised absence of basic amenities, such as electricity, roads, schools and drinking water projects, in the villages.
“I raised these issues in parliament from 2004 to 2009 when I was an MP from Barmer,” he said. “The villages have got solar electricity but I’m trying to connect them to grid power through Deendayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana,” he said.
Power department officials said they were not sure if grid connections will be allowed in the villages in DNP because that would entail laying cables and installing poles.
Development work was prohibited in DNP areas for many years but gradually government started giving relaxation to set up projects that will not disturb ecology of the area. Under the relaxation, some schools were constructed and roads laid.