Solar units beyond people`s reach in Sunderbans

Solar units beyond people`s reach in Sunderbans  A few years ago, Shaktipada Jena, a small farmer could dream of buying a home solar power system. He'd have to stretch his means to save between Rs 3,100 and Rs 4,800, the going rate. But now prices have gone through the roof and a solar unit is out of his reach. Everyday, as darkness falls, he sees electric lights come on in some of his neighbours' homes on Ghoramara island, in the Sunderbans archipelago. Meanwhile, his children do their homework by the flickering glow of kerosene lamps and his wife speaks wistfully of tv soaps that she can't watch.

Perched atop the cabin of a packed trawler on its way to Ghoramara from the mainland, Jena wonders why, when the government had promised them subsidised solar units, solar power companies are charging such high prices. "We are poor people, how can we afford to pay so much?' he asks.

At Sagar and Ghoramara islands, panchayat officials, too, are flummoxed by the steep price hike.Back in 2005, they had received letters from the West Bengal Renewable Energy Development Agency (wbreda) saying they would get a 90 per cent discount on solar units, which come in three capacities