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  • Writer's pictureMaanasa Mendu

Why we need to be careful when discussing inequality

Updated: Apr 30, 2019


When I typically share my journey of inventing HARVEST, I tell the story of going to India and regularly experiencing blackouts in my grandmother's ancestral house at 12 pm. Additionally, I describe how kids my aged gathered around dangerous kerosene lamp. These experiences have directly motivated me to address the issues of energy access and reliability.


When I share this story, however, I'm met with eye rolls by one of closest friends, a fellow Indian. Her concern is that stories like these propagate the image of India as a backward country dominated by superstition, illiteracy, and dirt lined roads.

In reality, India is also home to several tech hubs from Hyderabad to Bangalore to Chennai to Mumbai. It's the largest democracy of the world. It's the birthplace of greats from Mother There to M. S. Swaminathan to APG Abdul Kalam. It's a front-runner in producing CEOs for tech companies even here in the States: Sathya Nadella, Sundar Pichai, Padmasree Warrior.


Like any country, India can't be stereotyped to 1 aspect of the socioeconomic spectrum. Energy poverty and inequality can co-exist in the same country that's home to Mukesh Ambani, the 18th richest man in the world, and HITEC city.



While acknowledging India's greatness in the past and promise for the future, we must speak up and address issues that cloak India - energy access, clean water, stigma surrounding menstruation and sexuality.


According to the International Energy Agency, over 239.2 million people or one fifth the population in India still lacks access to electricity - a fundamental. While 100% of villages are considered to be “electrified”, the government's loose definition of electrification only requires that 10% of houses in the area are connected to the national grid. The blatant reality is that electrification is not equal to access. We need to provide 24/7 reliable and adequate access to power.


However, we are faced with challenges: how do we provide electricity in the most remote areas of India? How do we provide electricity in emergencies like floods in monsoon season?How do we deal with areas, which don’t have a strong wind, sun, or water resource potential?

The answer lies in part in micro grid or off the grid solutions.



A scenic picture of farmers' fields taken on the way from Tarakaturu, Andhra Pradesh, India



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