Lighting rural lives

Vinaya Patil
Tuesday, 27 February 2018

At 21, Sagar Bendre, an electrical engineer from Shirur taluka in Pune, is busy making solar power models for a village in Betul district of Madhya Pradesh, in a bid to provide holistic livelihood solutions to the villagers

It’s that time of the year when students are all geared up to appear for their exams, with hopes of scoring high and dreams of entering the professions of their choice — art, medicine, engineering, and what not. While these young talent houses strive to get the best jobs in their respective careers, this 21-year-old boy from Shirur taluka in Pune, dreams of bridging the gap between “technological solutions and actual need” which happens to be in sync with this year’s National Science Day (February 28) theme — Science and Technology for Sustainable Future.

Sagar Bendre, an electronic engineer by profession is currently working in a small village in Betual district of Madhya Pradesh, helping the villagers adopt sustainable livelihood and enabling what he calls “knowledge transfer”. Having been born and brought up in Arangaon village of Shirur, Bendre says that he has always been inclined towards rural upliftment.

Working with BAIF Development Research Foundation as part of the SBI Youth for India fellowship, Bendre began by undertaking a sample survey in the village followed by problem ranking. “This way we get to know what the requirements of the area are. We can thus prioritise work accordingly,” he explains how he initiated the irrigation project there. 

“Irrigation facilities were majorly lacking here. Also, electricity supply is an issue and agriculture being the main occupation of the Gond and Korku tribes of the region, this was a major requirement. They also engage in livestock rearing and other such small allied occupations,” adds Bendre.

The Rabi and Kharib crops grown here are harvested by February, after which a lot of people migrate to nearby towns and cities like Nagpur. “This leads to crowded cities and degrading of their lifestyle. I, therefore, thought of coming up with solutions to their issues and also aiding decentralisation,” he elaborates.

With a background in electrical engineering, “I have always been interested in coming up with renewable energy solutions. I used my knowledge to light the village roads with solar street lamps.” 

However, the investment in solar-powered lights and equipments is huge and the villagers cannot afford it. Bendre thus developed a portable model of solar batteries for the farmers. “I am going to make five such models initially, and the villagers can use them through a lease system thus making it affordable for all,” he informs.

But that’s not all. Just making these equipments and giving them to the villagers doesn’t serve the purpose because “you cannot always monitor the use and further creation of such models. We have therefore begun a solar enterprise model in the village which includes passing on knowledge to the village youth and women regarding assembling of these renewable energy sources. This also leads to giving women financial independence by turning them into micro entrepreneurs and paving the way for more safe, green and sustainable lifestyles,” he says.

Apart from this, Bendre is also involved in making a biogas model for the village where he, along with the village youth, engages in the promotion of biogas and using this energy for lighting up homes and stoves and the slurry for organic farming. 

“This can be achieved by simply separating the solid and liquid waste,” says Bendre, who has always been keen on bringing about a social change.

Having been actively involved in social activities at college and school levels, Bendre had decided to work in this field years ago when he joined college. “Alternative energy and rural livelihood can go hand in hand if implemented well and bridging this gap is my main aim,” he concludes, while adding that he will continue to work in this sector, across India.

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