The picturesque landscape of pathanpara situated in the hilly terrains of kannur district in Kerala tells us the success story of appropriate technology movement in India. 15 years ago the community came up with their own micro hydel project for supplying electricity for almost 36 households without any government support. could you recollect the NASA scientist Mohan Bhargava ???(Swades , the film which has influenced many of the youngsters of our time to think about rural development) and imagine pathanpara had two – local engineers who worked with the local community to bring about this revolutionary model challenging all the existing myths about technology.
The janakeeya urja samithi (village electricity committee) managed by the community members is an interesting example of how empowerment works in in the actual sense. A 5 kw capacity micro hydel generator fighting against the energy hungry nation’s nuclear demons. The pathanpara project was actually in response to the nuclear plant proposed for kannur in the early nineties.”A complete celebration for the entire village. i still remember the day the entire street was decorated with colored lights and the entire village was in a mood of festivity” says shibu, the first secretary of janakeeya urja samithi. The project which provided electricity for almost 36 houses with its own committee which efficiently managed the generation , distribution of the electricity has actually challenged the state electricity board which could not provide them power for 15 years.
In the words of Appachan while recalling the incident “Cooperatives are always a success if the whole community can come together for the common cause of development and is the most efficient way of enabling rural development”.Pathanpara is no exception as the community under the aegis of the parish priest Fr Asariparambil had already taken up the operation of a cooperative bus which served this lush green village in the hilly terrains of western ghats.
The situation has changed now in pathanpara. it is not a remote hilly terrain anymore. In august 2012 the village was electrified under the Rajiv Gandhi grameen vydutikaran yojana which resulted in the stoppage of the pathanpara project. There is a possibility that the project may be upgraded and can reach the capacity to sell electricity back to the grid which would leave them options to raise a sort of ‘village development fund’ which can be used for other development activities. The days i spent with the villagers gave me a sense of hope that people still want to continue it as the project has become a symbol of the pathanpara village. The tea time discussions( i don’t know what exactly a focus group discussion is) and the interviews over lunch (had to hide questionnaires in front of the mouth watering fish curry) revealed some sense of pride and empowerment experienced by the villagers as owners of a project. nobody even speaks about pathanpara without the suffix janakeeya current. I could feel it in the air and even the wind there seems to whisper ‘yes we did it,buddy”