Thursday August 16, 2018

This college built on Gandhi’s ideas offers no degree but produces quality solar engineers

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By Harshmeet Singh

Meet 37 year old Naina Devi, a resident of Rajasthan’s small dusty village Tilonia, she has trained over 50 women solar engineers from 11 LDCs (Least Developed Countries) till now. She doesn’t speak the same language as her students and most of them are much elder to her. With no formal education to boast of, Naina Devi handles integrated circuits, capacitors and soldering machine with as much ease as she handles chapattis at home!

And Naina Devi is not alone. Situated at a distance of about 50 km from Ajmer railway station, Tilonia is home to trained women dentists, women artisans, women electricians, night schools, children parliament, a water harvesting system, a community FM station and much more. Tilonia is unique is more ways than one, and yet, it remains far away from the public eye and publicity that it so dearly deserves. Tilonia represents the true spirit of India; the spirit that says that the solutions to our rural problems lie within us. This unprecedented change in Tilonia has been made possible by Barefoot College.

Barefoot college

Established in 1972 by Sanjit ‘Bunker’ Roy, Barefoot College is a non-governmental organization that has been working for the women of Least Developed Countries by training them in the fields of solar electrification, education, livelihood development, water conservation and many more. The college, established in Tilonia, Rajasthan, runs on the principles and ethics of Mahatma Gandhi.

Covering over 8 acres of land in Tilonia, the Barefoot college identifies women from the most neglected sections of the society and trains them in dentistry, solar engineering, crafts, mechanics and even RJing! The pupils, most of them mothers and grandmothers, come from some of the most under developed and far flung nations in the world. Many of them, in their 50s and 60s, had never seen electricity in their life before coming to Tilonia.

This unique college doesn’t offer any degree to its students. The reason, according to them, is that the students leave their villages after getting a degree and start looking for lavish jobs. The entire objective of the project is for the students to stay in their village and pass on the benefits to the fellow villagers. The ‘learning by doing’ process followed by the college ensures that the students get a hang on things and are prepared to face all the possible issues within their craft.

The entire program is free for the students, thanks for the funding raised from a number of donors such as the Indian Government and some international agencies. All the local women working in different departments such as solar engineering, mechanical workshops, crafts and dentistry are paid the same wages which is equal to the minimum wage amount set by the law in India. Believe it or not, the entire college runs on solar power! Additionally, close to 100 million litres of fresh water has been harvested in the college since 1991!

Further support after training

Once the participants complete their training and move back to their home towns, the Barefoot College invests $50,000 in their villages for the installation of solar equipment. Each household in the village is expected to contribute towards the maintenance of solar installations with an equal amount as their earlier expenditure on kerosene and wax candles. The solar engineer is responsible for all the repairing and fixing of the solar installations and is paid a monthly salary from the amount contributed by the households in the village. The solar electrification program of Barefoot College has brought lights to more than 45,000 households from some of the some neglected places in the world.

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Life at Tilonia

Tilonia is currently home to a number of night schools where working children can attend classes after their day’s work. The teachers, again, are the local villagers.

Strengthening the democratic values in the society has always been one of the major objectives of Barefoot College. This has led to the establishment of a Student Parliament inside Tilonia. The Parliament elects its own council of ministers, which is headed by the Prime Minister. The council undertakes surprise inspections at all the schools in the village and brings to the notice of College authorities, any anomalies that they find. Such instances of inculcating accountability in the kids are seldom seen in the country.

The college also has a fully operational Radio Station which is operated by one of the trained women. Used to propagate important messages and news, this Radio Station is one of the most significant landmarks in the village. But entertainment in Tilonia doesn’t end here! The College also houses a dedicated Puppet room which is armed by professional puppeteers who organize frequent shows in the village to keep the villagers updated about the current social issues.

There is so much more to Tilonia than what meets the eye. A model village, an inspiration, a true realization of Mahatma Gandhi’s dreams, women empowerment, and welfare of the world are just some of the many descriptions that fit aptly on Barefoot College.

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  • This is a program that I deeply admire and applaud. I come from a third world country in the Pacific called Papua New Guinea where corruption has ruined my country.

    Such a program like this has a huge potential for benefiting the people of this country. If there is any way you can possibly assist through a similar program in my country, please contact me by email.

  • Nice to know about Tilona village.
    If one need more information, how one can get it?

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  • This is a program that I deeply admire and applaud. I come from a third world country in the Pacific called Papua New Guinea where corruption has ruined my country.

    Such a program like this has a huge potential for benefiting the people of this country. If there is any way you can possibly assist through a similar program in my country, please contact me by email.

  • Nice to know about Tilona village.
    If one need more information, how one can get it?

Next Story

Exploring the Rajasthani Cuisine

The foodie in you is sure to stumble upon more exotic and unique culinary delights if you set out to explore the place in detail

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Rajasthani snacks make a great accompaniment to a glass of their special Adraki chai (ginger tea).
Rajasthani snacks make a great accompaniment to a glass of their special Adraki chai (ginger tea).

Home to royal palaces, mighty forts and unending deserts, Rajasthan is the land of legends and kings and queens. Rajasthani cuisine is famous all over India for its rich flavours and unique cooking styles. Being an arid state, the traditional cooking style has evolved in such a way that very less water is used in cooking. More oils and spices are used in order to preserve the food for longer times. Also, Rajasthani cuisine uses milk, ghee and butter in large quantities owing to the local production and availability of dairy products. Here are some top dishes which has made the Rajasthani cuisine famous worldwide. All you have to do is contact one of the car rentals in Jaipur for a day of restaurant hopping in the city.

Daal Baati Churma
This is the signature Rajasthani dish which is a combination of baked round bread called Baati, spicy lentil curry or Daal and a lightly sweet crumble known as Churma. It is so simple yet tasty and healthy. The baati is made out of wheat flour, ghee and milk and cooked in a baati cooker or tandoor whereas the daal is made of five different types of lentils. Churma is nothing but crushed baati mixed with sugar or jaggery and flavoured with cardamom.

Gatte ki Sabzi
Gatte is the gram flour balls which are used in the preparation of various dishes. Gatte ki sabzi is an everyday dish made by cooking gram flour balls in a gravy of buttermilk and spices. The sabzi can be relished with rice or roti.

gatte
Gatte ki Sabzi.

Ker Sangri
Ker Sangri is yet another traditional dish of Rajasthan which is a preparation of dried Ker berries with Sangri beans. These berries and beans grow easily in desert conditions, and hence it evolved as a staple food item. Ker Sangri pairs best with roti, daal and rice.

Laal Maas
Rajasthani cuisine is mainly vegetarian. However, the Rajput influence has led to the inclusion of some mouthwatering meat preparations in the cuisine. Traditionally, Laal Maas used to be prepared with deer meat or boar meat. In modern days, the dish is prepared using tender mutton. The spicy red curry is best relished with bajra ki roti. Liberal use of fiery red chillies imparts the unique red colour to the curry.

Mohan Maas
This is yet another mutton dish where well-cooked delicious mutton chunks are dunked in a
rich gravy of milk, cream, spices and nuts.

Rajasthani sweets and snacks.
A man with Rajasthani sweets and snacks.

Snacks
Rajasthani snacks make a great accompaniment to a glass of their special Adraki chai (ginger tea). Kachoris and Samosas are commonly found in every local sweetmeat shop in the city. Kalmi Vada, Bikaneri Bhujia, and Mirchi Vada are some of the other snacks to be tried.

Sweets
Rajasthani cuisine is not complete without mentioning its wide variety of mouth-watering
sweets and desserts. Most of their sweets are rich preparations involving generous usage of
milk, cream, ghee, and sugar. Sweet lovers cannot miss trying out Mava Kachori, Rabri Jilebi, Malpua, Balushahi and Ghevar.

The foodie in you is sure to stumble upon more exotic and unique culinary delights if you set out to explore the place in detail. Jaipur Outstation taxi services are also available for intercity trips within Rajasthan, to make the most out of your Rajasthan food expedition journey.