It is easy to forget the invention that is the light bulb, for most people, it is such a basic commodity that most of us wouldn’t think twice about not having one. But in reality, many villages in the Northeast do not have electricity, in fact many have never even seen a light bulb, their day ends when the sun sets. Villages in Arunachal Pradesh with similar problems have come recently across a blessing in the form of the Batti Project.
Let There Be Light!
The journey began when Merwyn Coutinho quit his job with a corporate company in Bombay and set out to become a dedicated traveller. ‘This started in 2010, I started from Bombay on the bike. I covered about eight states before I reached Himachal, from there I came towards UP, Bihar and finally entered the Northeast. Wherever the bike goes, I go there. And wherever the bike doesn’t go, I go on foot. So I have travelled quite a bit on foot, I have seen Arunachal, Nagaland, Meghalaya but predominantly Arunachal because the region is still very wild and remote.’ While travelling, it became obvious that most of villages were without electricity.
‘At summers it becomes it becomes dark at about five o’clock, winters it’s even before. And after that all the activity happens around the fire. There was this village where we walked to, the villager were happy because they have not seen any tourists there, they were so happy that they invited us for Christmas. That time, we were thought of a plan, I have a few friends in Bangalore who I had been in touch through Facebook. After discussions we thought we will bring lights which can help people there, it will be a gift, Christmas gift basically.’
As he was travelling, he decided to distribute solar lights to all the villages he passed through. ‘A bulb powered by solar energy was the most efficient thing that you can ever think of giving these villagers because it is very simple, there is not any need of any big investment. As I have good information about the world, I knew that I could become the facilitator to provide light in such areas so that’s how the idea of Batti came.
Merwyn’s team also educated the villages who had very little idea about solar bulbs. ‘We literally had to teach them how to light the bulb, and how to turn the switch on. Because they have never seen a light switch ever in their life. We taught them what to do, where to fill the battery water, how to maintain the bulb, and how to use it efficiently. Education has to happen, and it automatically happens, especially in these kinds of places. The products that we selected are products that are very simple, which have no complications and require no maintenance but still information needs to be given.’
Funding from State Government
The State Government will now sponsor ‘Ride to Light’ cycling expedition that covered 300 km across Lohit, Dibang and Lower Dibang Valley districts this year to provide basic lightings to people living in remote and far flung areas under the Batti Project.
Chief Minister Pema Khandu agreed to sponsor the expedition after he was briefed about the State’s cycling tourism potential that could turn Arunachal Pradesh into a major cycling tourism hotspot of the country.
Merwyn had a discussion with the CM Pema Khandu in the presence of Deputy CM Chowna Mein and Parliamentary Secretaries Pasang Dorjee Sona, Bamang Felix and Mutchu Mithi.
Mithi said the cycling expedition, if made an annual event, could turn into a popular event similar to that of Tour De France, where cyclists from all over the world can participate. ‘The cycling routes in the lap of pristine nature can attract even the die-hard cycling enthusiasts around the world, if promoted properly,’ said Merwyn. He also informed that Lada in East Kameng is the next destination identified for the Batti Project.