In 2011, travelling buddies Merwyn Coutinho and Rajiv Rathod from Bangalore City took a holiday trip to far-flung Gandhigram, Arunachal Pradesh’s eastern most settlement. Little did they realise that their accidental adventure will change the lives of many villagers in this remote corners of the country.
The following year, the duo were invited back for a Christmas celebration by the Lhisu tribesmen. So they brought 240 solar bulbs along with them for use in the festive celebrations as gifts for the community there. That’s how they came up with the idea for “The Batti Project”.
Their mission was both simple and ambitious — to light up villages in remote Northeast areas by installing solar lighting kits. They have begun with villages in Arunachal Pradesh, where the natives has never seen roads or electricity, and no connection with the outside world.
After raising sufficient funds from their personal savings, friends and well-wishers. The good samaritans – Coutinho and Rathod began going to remote areas and villages in the border state and distributing people with ‘the Batti kit’, that includes a 20-watt solar panel (20 watts), a 20 Ah lead battery, three 3-watt LED tubes, 3 holders and switches, 21 metres of fixed cabling (5, 7 and 9 m respectively), and a charge controller.
“The first house we lit belonged to a 90-year-old woman,” Coutinho recalls. “She had never seen a switch her entire life and was very hesitant. She told us that she has spent all her life in darkness”, in an exclusive chat with HuffPost India.
Hesitation soon gave way to enthusiasm. “Her grandson came up to me and said that the unit is proving to be quite troublesome,” he continues. “When he asks her to switch it off, she refuses, saying that she has been given this to bring light, so then why does she need to turn it off. So, now, they wait for her to sleep to switch it off.”
So far, the Batti Project has brought light to over 250 homes and desires to light up as many houses in the off-grid, remote and almost neglected regions of an Indian state, not many know much about, Arunachal Pradesh.
Join the North East India’s first full-fledged cycle tour – Ride To Light. The 300 kilometres ride will cover Lohit, Dibang and Lower Dibang Valley districts of Arunachal Pradesh in support of the Batti Project.