Friday, 5 February 2016

She Was Illiterate. Yet She Went on to Educate The World About Uncontrolled Mining.

Credits: The Better India
Kinkri Devi did not know how to read and write, yet, she went on to became a pioneer activist who educated the masses about the environment, and raised concerns about the effects of uncontrolled mining. Heroes come in all forms, but octogenarian, green-heroes that wage a war against an unjust system to fight for what they truly believe in, with great conviction, are rare. Kinkri Devi is one such green-hero

Credits: Tehelka
Due to her social background, Devi was denied education and thus resorted to domestic help services. Working as a maid at an early age, her childhood was a challenging one, riddled with problems. At the tender age of 14, she was married to Shamu Ram, a bonded laborer who died of typhoid when she was merely 22, and was forced to become a sweeper.  As the years rolled by, Devi watched the world around her change drastically, perhaps for the worse. Her once beloved surroundings were desecrated by unrestrained quarrying, and the once-rich paddy fields of Himachal Pradesh were slowly yet steadily disintegrating, before her eyes, much to her horror. Seeing the chaos around her she decided to do the impossible – she took a vow to fight against the mining interests.  However, her campaign was dismissed by the quarry owners, who accused of threatening them for her own vested interests.

After a long period with no response to her suit, she headed for Shimla and staged a 19-day hunger strike outside the court until it agreed to take up the issue. The strike won Devi national and international headlines. In 1987, the high court not only ordered a stay on mining but also imposed a blanket ban on blasting in the hills.

Faced with the prospect of closing their operations, her opponents threatened to kill her, but she continued to fight. The mine owners appealed to the Supreme Court, which ruled against them in July 1995, adding to Devi's renown.

Kinkri Devi passed away on December 30, 2007, but she left behind a legacy. She was a true fighter and survivor and hers is a story that must be shared. 

Monday, 1 February 2016

Meet India's Solar Engineer Grannies!

(Image Courtesy:

In 2003, the Barefoot College, Tilonia, Rajasthan, decided to train illiterate elderly rural women as solar engineers. The biggest challenge at the time was to convince donors, policy makers, as well as the male members of the community to accept the ‘impossibility’ that these women could be trained.
But why choose illiterate and semi-literate elderly women to be the solar pioneers rather than men, who will be more likely to have some education and be easier to teach?

“Do you know why we insisted on older women? Because training men is pointless. They will grow restless and go to big cities in search of jobs. Women have more patience to learn the skill. And especially since they are from poor families, they will stay back home and prove their worth to their communities. ,” says Sanjit Bunker Roy, Founder, Barefoot College.

'In six months we can make a grandmother into a solar engineer!'

It ain’t just the age, it’s the grit and determination beyond those silver streaks of hair, that changes the world. To know more, read The Better India coverage on Bunker Roy's initiative and The Guardian's coverage on Women Solar Engineers.