Meera Vashisht was working on a science project in her school in Texas last year when she first heard about the Indian government’s move to replace each of the 77 crore existing bulbs with powersaving light-emitting diode (LED) ones.Meera, who was born and brought up in America and is a seventh grader in Sartartia Middle School in Sugar Land, began to think hard: would it be really possible for India’s underprivileged to replace their incandescent bulbs with LED lamps that are over seven times as expensive?
I thought this is something I could help with. And it’s then I had this eureka moment,” Meera says over phone and email.The 13-year-old got down to drafting a letter which she sent out to “random people that I could find in our family phone book”, explaining the government’s objective of reducing greenhouse gases as well as taking electricity to the poorest villages in India. The problem, however, as she pointed out in the letter, is that although the government was subsidising the cost of LED bulbs, they would still be out of reach of the poorest sections of the society where the maximum impact will be felt.Meera’s letter was a plea for donations that would enable her to distribute LED bulbs on her visit to India. “Electricity is empowerment. In rural areas, it helps kids study after dusk, it helps ease the workload of people, it improves agricultural output,” she explained to her potential donors.
Yes, we have sent Meera a confirmation. The young girl will buy LED bulbs with the funds that she has collected and distribute those among the needy in Delhi. The programme is scheduled some time in the first week of July,” says Saurabh Kumar, managing director, Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL), a joint venture company of four power PSUs — NTPC, PFC, REC and Powergrid. EESL procures LED bulbs from private-sector manufacturers through competitive bidding and then sells those at a fixed retail price of Rs 85 (price varies depending on a state’s local taxes). As many as 11.7 crore bulbs have already been replaced with LED, with the government sticking to a deadline of March 2019 to make India a fully LED lamp nation.
The event (with Meera) in Delhi will be organised with the aim of spreading awareness regarding energy efficiency, and also to motivate more children to come forward and replicate such noble initiatives,” says a Union power ministry spokesperson, adding that Sunanda had contacted the ministry for logistical support in distributing LED bulbs.Meera’s letter begins with a big-picture view of the global environmental challenge. “I am sure I am not the first person to tell you that our planet is undergoing the most serious environment challenge today and what happens in the next few years may decide whether we have a healthy planet or have set a course towards its destruction.But what if I told you that we can all actually do something about it?” She sent out as many as 500 letters, many by post.Born to a Punjabi father and Kashmiri mother, Meera says she often has India on her mind — its people, the hustle and bustle in the bazaars, festivals, her ancestral home in Punjab and, above all, the “feeling of belonging and the smiles from everyone”.”The joy of participating in Diwali, Holi and other colourful festivals rejuvenates me,” she says, adding that she is connected to India every moment because of her ongoing training in Bharatnatyam and Hindustani classical music. Meera also plays the flute in her school band.Meera says her favourite subjects in school are mathematics and English, and she loves to debate. “My interest in mathematics developed as I love playing with numbers,” she says. She has not done any career planning as yet but reckons she will be in the field of environment.
But what was the trigger for getting involved in environmental issues in general and India’s LED scheme in particular? “My grandfather is passionate about environmental causes. He has instilled in me the idea of being a custodian of the environment and leaving a better planet than we have inherited,” she says.After distributing LED bulbs in Delhi, Meera will travel to her ancestral home in Phagwara in Punjab. The locals will surely see her in a new light.