One man's mission to make India go sustainable and solar


These solar panels on the roof are sufficient to meet the energy needs of a small home (Photo credit: Energy Swaraj Foundation)

One man is on a Gandhian mission to make India solar. He is doing so by undertaking a ten-year travel mission on a bus that packs in 3.2 kw of solar power for his 'household' needs.

Meet Professor Chetan Singh Solanki. 

An IITB professor who lives, cooks and sleeps in his solar bus, giving lectures to students; demonstrating the efficacy of solar power and inspiring people to live sustainably. He says that he is trying to catalyse a people's movement, which can be done only through emotions.

Solanki's solar bus gets a lot of VIP visitors

Solanki is deeply concerned about climate change and its impact on people. He says, 99 per cent of the people are not even aware of the disastrous impacts of climate change.

Some of his thinking is revolutionary and makes you sit up immediately. He says that "governments across the world are not capable enough of tackling climate change. Governments cannot take sufficient action to mitigate climate change because they are elected only for four to five years."

Solanki's Mission
The IIT professor says that unless every individual takes action and contributes we cannot mitigate the impacts of climate change. "For this, we need a public movement." Till now through his travels, he has spoken with over 20,000 people. They listen to him and take a tour of his bus where all his appliances run on solar power.

To be able to initiate a public movement he has started out on a ten-year tour of India on his solar bus to talk to people and persuade them about living a more sustainable lifestyle. He began his journey on November 26, 2020 from Bhopal and has traversed all the way down south, and then came back up to north India meeting all kinds of people talking about environment, solar energy and living a humble life--almost akin to what Mahatma Gandhi used to propagate.

The bus attracts curious students who want to understand if the solar panels on the roof are enough to energise a small house

Rational or Radical
Solanki says: "We have become a spoilt people. We call solar an alternate source of energy. But it is the main source of energy." It is this thinking that he is set out to change.

"I tell people, let us make our own electricity. Let us change our lifestyle."

He says that mankind has destroyed the support systems of life - air, water, forests, soils, rivers. "We are showing the level of our stupidity through the lifestyles we live. I tell people what we need to do in order to set things right. That we need a big change. It is not a small one. It can't be done overnight".

Answers lie in Gandhian Thought
Solanki says that we can achieve energy swaraj, or self-sufficiency in energy by living two fundamental laws--those propagated by Gandhi. "Gandhi spoke about need and greed. If we limit our consumption, we do not put pressure on the earth's finite resources."

"The other thing that Gandhi said is, 'we do not need mass production but need production by the masses'. If we can do this by promoting local production, we can bring equity to people." These two fundamental thoughts will ensure that human life on earth can exist for centuries, says Solanki.

The man himself: Prof. Chetan Singh Solanki enjoys his cuppa in his home on wheels

Life on the Bus
Kerala-based Santhosh Thannikat, a responsible tourism consultant, who lived on the bus for three months as a travel coordinator, says: "We travelled 5,000 kms in Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Rajasthan. We visited more than 100 institutions and met more than 12,000 people. We met District Collectors, Vice Chancellors, jail superintendents, principals of colleges, heads of schools and addressed gatherings. We followed Covid protocols and social distancing norms".

Solanki says he wants to show action and a path for people to follow. For him the energy swaraj yatra is a new way of looking at life which is in sync with nature. He wants to convince people to give up the ways of the world and listen to what he has to say and what he has to show. He does that through his bus - a capable demonstrator of what he can achieve through the power of the sun.

The Road to Energy Swaraj 

  1. Avoid use of energy as much as possible
  2. Minimise use of electricity through efficient products
  3. Generate your own electricity

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