Vyachakurahalli, a village with 274 dwellings, recently (2015) achieved the feat of becoming the first smokeless (whilst cooking) village in the country. This once a non-descriptive village in Gauribidanur taluk in Chikballapur district in Karnataka,has added one more feather to its cap by entering the Limca Book of Records 2017 recently. Y Maheswara Reddy visited the village to find out more.
Once, cooking food was a tough task at this village. Now, it has become easy and pleasant for women of Vyachakurahalli village, thanks to the Government’s smokeless village concept.A majority of the inhabitants are either garment workers or farm laborers. They used to depend on firewood or kerosene to cook food. Finding firewood during monsoon was a tough task and the kerosene supplied through the fair price shops was hardly sufficient.=
In December 2015, the Union petroleum ministry declared Vyachakurahalli as India's first smokeless village after it switched from conventional fuel to LPG. Declaring a smokeless village involves various steps including assessing population of the village, estimating total number of households, including those that were using LPG, identifying the number of BPL families, analyzing the economic conditions of villagers and converting households to LPG usage with door-to-door campaigns and physical demonstrations.
Convincing villagers to shift to the LPG from the conventional fuel like firewood and kerosene was not an easy task for the people involved in this scheme. “We have succeeded in convincing the villagers to opt for LPG despite approaching them at a wrong time. Majority of them had incurred loss due to incessant rain when we wanted them to switchover to the LPG from conventional fuel. Some of them had been busy in drying paddy on the streets while a few of them were in a dilemma on how to rebuild their homes that had collapsed due to heavy rain,’’ recalls GeethaJayandhar of Lions International Club, Gauribidanur.
With the active involvement and participation of the local panchayat leaders, block level officers and elected representatives, the task of convincing the villagers to shift to LPG from conventional fuels became a little easier. Indian Oil LPG distributors were also committed and dedicated towards this cause.
The villagers were also educated about safe use of LPG with demonstrations carried out as part of the programme. “We conducted door to door survey to find out how many houses have the LPG and how many are to be provided. It was very difficult to meet the women during the day since majority of them work either as agricultural labourers or garment workers. They leave for work early morning and return home late evening. We had organized safety camps for the women during the night,’’ narrates GeethaJayandhar.
Profit not a motto
The Indian Oil Company arranged anLPG connection for each house at a concessional cost of Rs 2,000 but not many of them had money to pay Rs. 2,000. A few members of the Lions Club, including G.N. Suraj the then president, came forward to sponsor the LPG connections for needy families.
A majority of the LPG distributors work for profit but Shrenik R.J. who owns an LPG agency decided to join hands with all stakeholders to make Vyachakurahalli smokeless village. At that time, one had to pay Rs 2,000 for a LPG stove. That was the minimum price but Shrenik held talks with Nagesh G.S. from Bengaluru to supply LPG stoves at a concessional price.“I was very happy when Nagesh agreed to forego his profit and agreed to supply LPG stoves at a concessional price. A majority of my customers are from villages,’’ says Shrenik.
There are only two LPG distributors, including ShrenikIndaneEnterprises, in Gauribidanur. While the first one is focusing on customers from Gauribidanur, ShrenikIndane Enterprises caters to the needs of surrounding villages.“I am not doing this business for business purpose. I am not for profit. I consider supplying LPG cylinders with minimum profit as a service to society’’, he said.
Expressing happiness for having an opportunity to join hands for a noble cause, Nagesh G.S of Master Home Appliances, Bengaluru said he considered it as a responsibility to supply LPG stoves at concessional price. “I visited the village after supplying the LPG stoves. It gives me immense pleasure to see women cook food without hassles’’,Nagesh said.
Women are happy
A majority of women, who used to suffer bouts of cough caused by the soot-filled air in the blackened kitchens while cooking food, are happy and proud to possess LPG at their homes. With the LPG connection, their kitchens have turned bright with swanky steel gas stoves and the ubiquitous red cylinders giving them a new halo. “Cooking food has become pleasant for me since November 2015. Earlier, I had been struggling to cook food with firewood or kerosene. It was a tiresome job. Being a garment factory worker, I had to wake up early morning and cook food for my family and rush to the garment factory situated five kms away from our village. Now, I have no problems to cook food,’’ says NagarathnaLakshminarayana, a garment factory worker.
For female students like Soundarya Y.A., switching over to LPG fromconventional fuels is a blessing. Soundarya has to cook food for her parents before going to SSEA College, Gauribidanur. She has to prepare dinner for the family after coming home from the college and then find the time for study.“With switching over to LPG from conventional fuel such as firewood and kerosene, I need not spend added time in the kitchen. By using LPG for cooking, I find more time to focus on my studies. Last year, I have scored 432 out of 600 marks in PU exam. I am aiming to score more marks in the exams scheduled to be held in March,’’ says Soundarya Y.A., a II PU student.
According to Y.N. Nagaraj, a member of Vyachakurahalli gram panchayat, switching over to the LPG from the conventional fuel has helped women, especially those working in garment factories, a lot.“My wife Bhagyalakshmi, who has been working at a garment factory for more than three years, used to struggle a lot to cook food in the morning before going to work. She had been waking up at 5 am. Now, she can cook food within 30 minutes. She has now no problem even she wakes up at 6 am,’’ says Nagaraj with a smile.
Extended to other villages
The concept of smokeless village has been extended to other villages in Chikballapur district. Hossur panchayat has followed Vyachakurahalli with the active support of elected representatives and LPG distributors. “It is a continuous process. We are extending this smokeless village concept to other villages too,’’ said Mothi Sai Vasudevan, Chief Manager, LPG sales, Indian Oil Corporation.