Kolkata: Solar power has come to the rescue of terrorised womenfolk in Kamduni village on the outskirts of Kolkata who had stopped going out of their houses after dusk after a 20-year-old girl was brutally gangraped and killed.
Begun as a mission to provide safety and security to poor women living in areas with little or no streetlights, the Green Tara Social Initiative has now started empowering women including rape victims and their families with solar panels.
"Streets become more vulnerable when there is darkness so we are trying to wipe off all the dark corners using safe and clean energy," woman rights activist Santasree Chaudhuri said.
Along with her partner and social entrepreneur Vineeta Sharma, she has distributed solar lanterns in Kamduni village so that women feel safe to move around after sunset when the streets go under a spell of darkness.
With corporate sponsorship, they plan to extend help to other rape victims and their families in the state.
Raising a huge public outcry, a girl was brutally gang-raped and murdered at Kamduni in Barasat area of North 24 Parganas district on June 7 when she was returning home after college. Her body was found the next morning.
25-year-old Barnali Ghosh, who lives near the house of the victim, says the incident has left a deep scar on their minds as they never feel safe while going out of their houses to relieve them or fetch water from the nearby water pump.
"Solar lanterns will be useful for us when we go early in the morning or late in the night," she points out.
Chaudhuri says this is a step towards empowering women, educating them and energising their lives.
"Besides it also has a spiritual message as we are trying to remove darkness from the lives of people who are living under terror. Illumination affects the mind," says the activist.
According to the data of the National Crime Records Bureau, West Bengal has the dubious distinction of having the highest incidence of crime against women for the second consecutive year in 2012.
Out of a total 30,492 cases of crimes against women, more than 2000 instances of rapes were reported from the state last year.
Solar energy is also becoming a part of the healing process for the family who has been living in horror ever since the rape and murder incident.
The charitable trust is also trying to install a streetlight near the victim`s house.
"There is darkness everywhere here after night and after the incident we are scared to move around at night. Once we have the new lights installed, I think it would be safer for us," said a family member of the deceased girl.
Vineeta Sharma who is providing technical know-how to the initiative says they are trying to get corporate sponsorships to aid more victim families.
With about half of India surviving without electricity, the central government has started the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission which aims at generating 20,000 MW of solar power by 2022 as it is eco-friendly and cheaper in the long term.