60-year-old Noorjaha lighted five villages with solar power
Solar energy is an answer to power blues in rural India, says 60-year-old Noorjaha, popularly known as ‘Solar didi’. In the last five years, she not only lighted her own house but adjoining five villages in Kanpur rural.
Her missionary zeal to remove darkness from rural areas was even appreciated by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In his ‘Man Ki Baat’ program about a year ago, Modi made a special mention of Noorjaha’s efforts to light up rural areas. “A small effort by Noorjaha in Kanpur will go a long way in removing darkness from rural areas,” PM had stated in his programme.
Since appreciation from the PM, Noorjaha earned a new name ‘Solar didi’ in Bairisawai village under Maitha block in Kanpur Dehat. Her efforts soon earned her a reward from erstwhile Akhilesh government. She was awarded Rani Laxmi Bari award and a cheque of Rs 1 lakh to carry forward her mission last year. “My mission is to light up all villages where electricity is yet to reach and help those who want to rise against darkness to shine in life” says Noorjaha. But life was not easy for Noorjaha. After her husband’s death, raising five sons and a daughter was a big challenge. She started working as a daily wager to earn livelihood for the family. But that was not sufficient. “I faced a lot of hardship after my husband’s death. Being a Muslim, it was difficult to go out for work or start up something on our own with no money,” she claims.
While working as a daily-wager, she came in contact with an NGO Shramik Bharati. The NGO was involved in women empowerment through education. Noorjaha found a daily-wage job at the NGO. She got in touch with Radha, a staffer at the NGO, who identified her potential.
The NGO was running a community radio station which was shut down due to lack of funds. Since there was no electricity in the village, the station was being run on solar energy. One day Radha suggested Noorjaha to start up her own solar energy plant and rent solar lanterns. “I had no money to invest. The NGO offered to give five solar panels and solar lanterns lying unused at the radio station. I happily agreed. The man who was running the solar plant installed the panels at my house and taught me how to generate solar power and charge solar lanterns with no cost,” says Noorjaha.
Noorjaha still remembers the day when she charged solar lamps and lighted up her hut. “Villagers, who were still using kerosene oil to keep the darkness away, were astonished to see the white rays throwing light all over my hut. We celebrated the night with lights on,” claims she.
That night Noorjaha decided to light up the lives of others too in her village. “Next morning I was surprised to see many villagers thronging my hut inquiring about solar lanterns. They offered to pay also,” she claims.
She charged about 30 solar lamps and offered to those who needed it. “Life would come to a halt after sunset in Bairiswasi village. An eerie silence would prevail in entire villager under the darkness. For the first time, villagers enjoyed light, children studied late in night,” recalls Ishrar.
Soon people from adjoining villages, which had no electricity, approached Noorjaha for solar lamps. The demand came from adjoining Dariyaon, Anoopupur, Sumitpur villages etc. Noorjaha charged Rs 10 for renting her solar power.
Initially, her sons Ishaq, Nisar, Shamshad, Ishtiaq and Nibhan acted as delivery boys. Later, villagers would come themselves by evening to collect the solar lamps and return in the morning for recharging the same. Noorjaha would plug in these lamps to recharge and make them ready for the delievery.
She used to earn Rs 4,000 to 5,000 a month from renting solar lamps. She bought a few more with savings she made. Today, she has about 50 solar lamps which villagers would take it on rent. The demand would increase if there is a marriage or ceremony in the village.
She used the Rs 1 lakh award money for replacing the batteries and buying more sola r lamps. Though she managed to get married her only daughter Nafeesa with the little savings she made through her success story but Noorjaha wants to take her mission to the next level. She has approached the Prime Minister Naendra Modi through a journalist from Varanasi. “I have requested the prime minister not only to help me but also make solar energy available in each Uttar Pradesh villages. It is cost effective and a solution to shortage of electricity in rural areas,” she claims.
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