A ray of hope, a million steps at once into the future. The sun shone on the village of Shinnyu, as the village which had never seen electricity finally saw bright light powered by solar energy. It was a weekday, but on February 16, the church in Shinnyu village opened its doors for a thanksgiving service for a ‘glorious’ event- the arrival of electricity. It was the first time in the history of the village that they could see light at night apart from their usual source of bamboo torches and firewood.

Established in 1997, Shinnyu village is in the remotest part of the district located in the Indo-Myanmar border. One has to undertake a 12-hour journey from Mon town to reach the village. With no proper roads, no electricity, and no proper internet access, Shinnyu village under the Monyakshu subdivision in Mon district was as good as cut off from the rest of the world.

“Not even an electric pole in the village,” was how B John Khangnyu described the village’s electricity infrastructure. John is the teacher-in-charge of the Government Primary School in the village which was opened in 2010 after being recognized in 2002 by the Nagaland State government. He has been posted in the village since 2015 and the plight of the village first received attention through his social media post in 2018.

Shinnyu would probably have been in darkness for some more time had not John Khangnyu, the headmaster of the government-run village school, lamented the lack of electricity on social media. Mr. Khangnyu is from Tobu, the nearest connected settlement about 58 km from Shinnyu. He is one of the few people in Shinnyu to own a mobile phone because recharging the battery involves travel of several kilometers.

The village’s dream of having access to electricity was made a reality with the help of the Global Himalayan Expedition (GHE) which partnered with the Mon district administration for the project. “We took 16 hours to travel from Mon to Shinnyu with solar panels and accessories. We came to know about the village from Brother John’s social media post on the electricity and connectivity issues in Shinnyu,” Jaideep Bansal of Global Himalayan Expedition (GHE) told The Hindu on Friday.

The brightly lit community hall in Shinnyu past sunset: source

60 households in the village have been electrified purely using solar power. This includes a church, a school, a guest house, and a community hall. The entire cost was borne through CSR funding and was executed by the GHE which is working towards providing clean energy access through solar power to remote communities, as reported by NorthEast Today. Till date, GHE has electrified 131 villages across India, and Shinnyu village in Mon is the first village in Nagaland to be covered under their initiative.

The total cost of the project was Rs.23 lakh including the cost of logistics for transport of all the materials. While all the materials were brought from New Delhi, they could be transported to Tobu, which is 6 hours away from Shinnyu village. Villagers volunteered to transport the materials and also looked after the food and lodging needs of the technicians who arrived for the installation of the solar panels.

Villagers volunteer in the installation of solar cells in Shinnyu: source

Every household in the village has been provided with 3 LED bulbs and 2 tube lights beside the solar panel and battery. The GHE will reportedly keep a regular check on the maintenance and follow up with the villagers.  Three persons from the village have also been trained as local engineers to maintain the solar panels.

Prior to this, all the major activities had to be done in daylight and the only access they had to light at night was through bamboo torches and firewood. Even their mobile handsets had to be charged with the help of small solar batteries purchased from Myanmar.

“We hope the installation of solar lighting will transform the lives of the community. Shinnyu was one of 10 un-electrified villages in our district. We intend to work with GHE for the other nine,” Mon district’s Deputy Commissioner Thavaseelan K. said to NorthEast News.

The villagers are not only grateful for the electricity in their village, but they have also taken a conscious decision to maintain a common fund where every family would donate Rs.100 periodically for maintenance, repair, and replacement of components of the solar installation. The changes may not be immediate or monumental. But for people in these remote areas, the coming of electricity has brightened not only their homes but also their hopes for the future with scope to expand on their livelihood for the elders, education for the children, and connectivity on the whole for the community.

 

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