Travel does a lot of things to you but there's nothing that matches that one moment of surprise. Rajiv and Merwyn for instance, would have never imagined that their trip to Arunachal Pradesh would end up changing thousands of lives – apart from theirs, of course. Believe it or not, these two young city dwellers have taken electricity to almost 50 remote villages in North East India, illuminating more than 400 homes in the process. And guess what it took to bring about such a big impact? Just one life changing trip!
Tell me more about this!
Before taking up the mammoth task of introducing electricity to remote villages, Rajiv was pursuing engineering. On the other hand, Merwyn was putting his tech knowledge to use in a software company. The two met through a common friend in 2005 and instantly bonded over their common love for travelling. Rajiv and Merwyn soon became travel buddies and went on to realise that they also share a mutual dislike for the conventional urban life.
A couple of years later, Rajiv finally decided to drop out of college and set up his own textile business. By 2010, Merwyn had decided that he was not meant to slog his life away in a corporate job. Rajiv followed and shut down his business despite earning profits. In all this time, the only thing that remained constant was their love for travel. Now that both Rajiv and Merwyn were past their restrictions, it was all about exploring the unknown.
That one life changing trip...
Back in 2010, Rajiv and Merwyn set off on a backpacking adventure through the lesser known parts of Arunachal Pradesh. It was during this trip that they came across villages like Vijayanagar and Gandhigram – places that were only accessible by walking in the hills for days at a stretch. No roads, no connectivity and of course, no electricity. This experience forced both Rajiv and Merwyn to think and question just about everything in life.
The very next year, the duo was invited over for Christmas celebrations by the people of Gandhigram, another remote village that they had visited earlier. Instead of taking the usual sweets and chocolates, Rajiv and Merwyn decided to bear the gift of light for the people of Gandhigram. The Batti Project was officially born.
What is the Batti Project?
A unique initiative that aims to spread electricity to the remote ends of India, the Batti Project works on a quite a solid model. The process starts with identifying villages that have long been ignored and continue to live in darkness. This is followed by an in-depth survey to identify specific requirements of every village. The team then opens the fundraising process, approaching corporates and individuals willing to contribute. Once the funds are raised, solar kits are procured directly from manufacturers. The kits are then transported to the villages and installed by a team of skilled individuals.
What do the villagers get?
Through their signature 'Batti Kit', Rajiv and Merwyn claim to have come up with a simple, durable and completely sustainable product that meets the needs of a tribal household. The Batti Project provides each house with an illumination kit that comes with three 3-watt LED tube-lights, a 21-watt panel and a 20AH battery – all of this at one-tenth of its market price.
Drawing the fine line
To avoid situations where the project ends up affecting the indigenous lifestyle of rare tribes, The Batti Project follows a unique 'ask to get' approach. According to Rajiv and Merwyn, they have never had any intention of forcing the project on to anyone and batti kits are only introduced upon mutual agreement with the villagers.
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