“Koshish karne walon ki kabhi haar nahi hoti hain. Main ziddi hoon isliye haari nahi” said Rukmini, the CEO of Durga Energy.
Married at 13, Rukmani Devi Kantara would have been burdened with the social responsibilities of life until she dared to challenge her faith! She hails from Mandwa village in the Dungarpur district, which like many other villages, was endowed with poverty, and a lack of resources.
“Although we had some livestock, we lacked both money and food. My husband was out of a job like other men of the village. There was no electricity. Kerosene lamps were the source of sustenance. Scorpion and snake bites were common among the villagers. Children suffered the most because there was no light for them to study in.,” said Rukmini.
Rukmani’s introduction to Rajeevika, Rajasthan’s State Rural Livelihood Mission, which inspired her to start a Self-Help Group (SHG) in her village, was the first step towards change. She influenced other women to join the initiative, and with the funds they received, they somehow earned enough to run a life.
IIT Bombay’s Dungarpur Initiative, Solar Saheli, in the year 2016 was a life turnaround for Rukmani and other tribal women in Dungarpur. The principal investigator of the project, Professor Chetan Singh Solanki, developed four clusters of SHGs in the area as part of their initiative in collaboration with Rajeevika and the District Administration. Women like Rukmani received training to familiarize them with Solar Panel initiatives. Tribal women of four clusters around Dungarpur- Antri, Biladi, Jhontri, and Punali were included in the programme.
At first, the villagers had lots of inquiries regarding solar power. They were curious about how it might produce electricity. Being a local, Rukmani was stubborn and insisted they use solar panels for one month by trusting her words. Five lakh solar panels have been placed, 40,000 solar study lamps have been provided, and one lakh torches and 50,000 lanterns have been produced so far. Rukmani and other women used to do all the installations by climbing the rooftop of people. After one month, all the households received secured electricity and were blessed with the ‘Solar Saheli’s’. Rukmini was declared the CEO of Durga Energy firm in a month due to her grit and stubbornness. Currently, the company also offers a variety of solar products, including grid-connected PV solar systems, solar home systems, solar lamps, solar street lights, solar-powered toys, and solar street lights, as well as their installation and maintenance, even to the most remote Dungarpur families.
Additionally, it helps local solar retailers and business owners and has been crucial in establishing technology-based livelihoods in the area. The firm owns a range of cutting-edge tools and machines, including a solar cell cutter, a tester for solar cells, stations for tabbing and stringing, tables for layout, a tester for electro-luminescence (EL), a laminator, machines for making aluminium frames, and a module simulator, among others. The business has given 200 locals in the area jobs, including 56 women with an income range of Rs 8000 to Rs 16000.
This ‘Community solar project’ initiative not only assured a stable income for tribal women but also helped them step out of ‘ghoonghat’ and mark their footprints.
Rukmani is a part of the National Geographic Mission campaign ‘One for Change’, which presents outstanding tales of change-makers who have made extraordinary efforts to improve the world.
CEO, Rukmani further aims to employ more tribal women and expand the domain of their initiative beyond. Rukmani’s journey from ‘Ghoonghat’ to a global platform is remarkable and one of a kind!