This week I am staying in a town called Ramnagar near Kashipur in Uttarakhand, which is about 290 Kilometers from New Delhi. It’s a typical town like any other in this part of the country, with number of small villages & settlements around it. The claim to fame for this town (Ramnagar), which is the reason for my visit too is it’s in the buffer zone outside Jim Corbett National Park. Every town or city in India has a place called Ramnagar, named after Lord Rama of Ramayana Epic, I presumed this town too got its name “Ramnagar” for the same reason. I was surprised to learn from our guide that the town owes it’s name to a British Commissioner H. Ramsay for this area in the 1856–1884 period.
Some 30 kilometers from Ramnagar is Choti Haldwani (a.k.a. Corbett Village) where we went for an Eco-Tour organized by local cooperative. Here I noticed almost every household sporting a solar light, complete with solar panels, LED light, Battery backup in a blackbox half-way in the light pole. I found these solar system not only in Choti Haldwani but in many of the surrounding villages of Ramnagar, even the settlements that are in the Corbett national park and reserve forest areas. Each of these black box has a long ID like UREDA/SSL/03/2013 stamped on that, a clear give away sign that these are part of a government program. Government departments in India have this boundless creativity and insistence on numbering everything, for example state highways department don’t leave any tree on roadsides unnumbered.
After some searching on the Internet about this program of giving Solar lights, I learned it’s one of the many programs of Uttarakhand Renewable Energy Development Agency (the first part “UREDA” in the ID) under the state government. UREDA gives these solar household lights with battery back-up for a subsidized price of Rs.3000 (attractive I should say), each such setup serves as a street light/outdoor light, plus provide 1 or 2 outlets to power small TV, charge Mobile phones, an indoor light & fan. Kudos to state & central governments for making this happen.
The Corbett village (Choti Haldwani) has many marginal farmers, each of whom owns a small house with a tiny garden beside it, where they grow 1 or 2 crops for their own consumption and selling in the local market. In the small farms we saw they were growing Grapes, Mango, Green Chilies, Lychee (famous here), Corn, Cabbage, Onion, Garlic & spices.
There were also few small chicken farms in the village, where we were told that the birds are humanely raised and organically fed, unlike the large bird farm complexes.