Decentralisation means Empowerment
More than 2 decades ago in the villages of Dominican Republic, a 55 year old Spanish speaking farmer, Martinez, taught me the most important lesson in my life: ‘decentralisation means empowerment’. Inequality is the biggest outcome of centralization- and we can see it around us. And that is what has stayed with me for all these years.
Decentralised services lead to transfer of power from the top into the hands of the poor; this idea lead to the creation of SELCO – an organization which uses energy access as a means to transform the system, in which the poor of our country access and participate in the change around them as equal partners.
The beauty of solar energy is that it is modular in nature. Power can be produced where it is required and need not be transported from hundreds of kilometers leading to transmission losses. Being modular and decentralized, the poor can generate their own power as per their immediate requirements and can increase the intake, as their needs increase over a period of time, thus making its access affordable.
For example, people from the underserved regions of Kalahandi district in Odisha, used to travel for hours to get simple photocopy of their identity cards or government documents leading to enormous financial drain on the poor families. Sensing an opportunity, Mr. Dhaneshwar Majhi in the village of Badchatrang, took a loan from Syndicate Bank for running a solar powered photocopying and printer shop. His services have now saved his fellow villagers from spending more on every photocopy.
This shows that poor have entrepreneurial skills and they can also positively contribute to society by creating jobs for other financially underserved populations. They need appropriate technology innovations, like blacksmith blowers, portable DC powered solar dental chairs that can serve at the doorstep of the poor in the remote villages.
And lastly the poor need customization of ownership and delivery models – ones that suit their context, culture and topography. And this is where a country like India can play a leadership role. India because of its diversity and vastness, has the talent and capability to solve the problems of the society which then can be replicated in other parts of the world.