Sunday, February 6, 2011


I was recently invited as a speaker at a UGC sponsored National conference on Environmental Management and Challenge for Sustainable Development. It was organised by M.D.College Parel, Mumbai. The chief guest at the conference was none other than the Sheriff of Mumbai Dr. Indu Sahani. She is the principal of H.R.College(Commerce and Economics) in Mumbai. Her address to the students was really impressive.

During her speech she gave examples of what sustainable development really means. One example was so exemplary that I felt was itching to share this with you all.

I will recount it in her own words:

"One day, one of my students' comes into my room and switches off the lights/fans and ACs of my room. The student is Jyotirmoy Chatterjee(a.k.a JC). So I asked him, "why are you doing this JC?". He asked me to wait and continued to gaurd the switchboard for 10 minutes. It was becoming unbearable. You can understand in Mumbai heat sitting without AC/fans and light becomes very uncomfortable after some time. So I ask JC, "Tell me JC, are you not scared of coming into the Principal's room and behaving in this fashion?" "No", he says and says that he will not put the turn it back on till after TEN minutes! After 10 long minutes he says, "Mam, I wanted to sensitize you to the problems people in rural India are facing. We cannot bear to have lights off for 10 minutes, but rural India has been in darkness for so long!" Point well driven. Born out of college students and their enthusiasm is Project Chirag - with the mission of lighting up rural India using solar lamps. Each lamp costs approximately Rs. 3500 The students decided that they will not approach rich people for handouts. If a student could forego Rs 10 each day for 365 days(foregoing their bag of chips) each person could raise the money to buy a solar lamp."

In a manner similar to how they sensitized the sheriff, the students removed the tubelights/lamps in the whole college. Their message went right in "hit the nail"! Project Chirag was born!

What does this project have to do with Sustainable Development? These students have lit up an entire village(now more!!) using solar power with their passion, enthusiam and ingenuity. All this without expecting doleouts from people who are rich. Less than 23 years of age, J C is the President of Students in Free Enterprise, HR College (SIFE, HRC). Check out their awesome work at Their work deals with 5 areas :Environment, Empowerment, Health and Sanitation, Social Upliftment, Education.

I hope this inspires you as well.

Lets take baby steps to becoming Greener. You never know what project could be born out "A Greener You too!"

1 comment:

  1. Nice initiative and great work by HRC students.

    @ Sunita P. - you should do an article on other such works in India. A list with website links if any. Maybe use facebook or other ways to reach out to people and find such projects. There are many people around the world who would like to contribute to such efforts. From this list they can select a pet project and contribute.

    To start -

    IITB has a research program called CTARA - Center for Technology Alternatives for Rural Areas. I am not sure if they do just research or also implement their research. It would be nice to know how outsiders can collaborate with CTARA to bring their technology into real world applications.

    Engineers Without Borders - This is a international organization that has done/ are doing several projects in India. I volunteer for its SFO chapter and I am working on a project in El Salvador.


I would be interested to know your views on this blog.