Saturday, 4 June 2011

Bihar News, Latest News from Bihar, News of Bihar, Biharprabha News

Bihar News, Latest News from Bihar, News of Bihar, Biharprabha News

Gyanesh Pandey- Lighting up lives in Bihar

Posted: 04 Jun 2011 06:19 PM PDT

Growing up in a remote village in West Champaran district of Bihar where dusk meant groping in darkness, Gyanesh Pandey wanted to bring light to the lives of the people. "The people of the village didn't have any choice and there was no rural development," says the 34-year-old US-returned Gyanesh.

Though his education took him to places far away from the dim rural hinterland, this Electrical Engineer from IT BHU (Institute of Technology Banaras Hindu University) returned after doing his higher studies at the prestigious Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York, and working in Los Angeles in the Semi Conductor Industry.
It was on a visit to his village, he, with his friend Ratnesh Yadav, felt the need to electrify the village, where the power lines of the state run Electricity Board do not reach. "We ruled out solar and wind energy as it would prove very costly," says Gyanesh, who was doing research in organic solar cells in the US.

However, they soon hit upon the idea to establish small scale power systems by burning renewable farm waste. The villages had plenty of rice husk – a waste product of rice milling – that could be used as fuel in the micro power plants.

The clean technology of biomass gasification was used to generate gas to run generators that supplied electricity. In 2007 the first power plant was set up in a village called Tamkuha in Bihar through a NGO they set up for the purpose, Samta Samriddhi Foundation.

A year later they established a separate company to run their power plants, Husk Power Systems (HPS). The company presently has 80 power plants, each generating 35-100 Kilowatts of electricity, lighting 350 villages in the districts of West Champaran, East Champaran, Lakhisarai and Muzaffarpur in Bihar.

Powerhouse: Gyanesh Pandey's company has 80 power plants supplying electricity to about 350 villages in Bihar
"We have been training the local youths for running and managing the plants thus providing rural employment," says Gyanesh, adding that Bihar has to improve its antiquated police and administrative set up that is least sympathetic to development.

Gyanesh has brought electricity at very low cost to villages in a state where majority of the villages are still under darkness. It is a 'pay-for-use' service where each house or business is directly connected to HPS power station. "We charge about Rs 100 per month, which is the basic charge for lighting a house, and as per their requirement the charge increases," says Gyanesh. As per the requirement electricity could be supplied for 6 hours to 14 hours in a day.

According to Gyanesh, the break even period for a power plant is roughly about 4-5 years. Their income comes through sale of electricity, rice husk char (RHR) – a by-product of rice husk used in making of incense sticks etc, and door-to-door selling of general consumer goods at village homes.

His company has won many awards in a short span of time, the first being the 2008 University of Virginia Business Plan Competition where they came first and the Social Innovation Competition at the University of Texas, Austin. More awards and recognition followed.

Gyanesh says they would trade for carbon credits from next year. "We are saving 100-150 tonne of carbon dioxide per year per power plant," he explains. As 1 carbon credit earns 10-12Euros, they would be earning from carbon credits. Each carbon credit represents one tonne of carbon dioxide either removed from the atmosphere or saved from being emitted.

By 2014 HPS proposes to set up 2014 power plants and save 200,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year. "We are planning to have 500 power plants in Bihar and the rest outside the state," says Gyanesh.

Power tarrifs to witness a steep hike in Bihar

Posted: 04 Jun 2011 08:11 AM PDT

Patna, June 1 (IANS) The Bihar Electricity Regulatory Commission (BERC) has approved the proposed hike in power tariff in the state, officials Wednesday said.

“The commission has reportedly approved to hike the power tariff by 15 to 20 per cent in the state, ” officials in the Bihar State Electricity Board (BSEB) said.

Contrary to the BSEB proposal for massive hike of power tariff, the BERC has approved a small increase which will be effective from this month itself, they said. The BSEB had submitted its proposals for a revised tariff to the BERC last February.

According to sources, the BSEB incurs a loss of Rs.1,417.23 crore annually. Of the Rs.10,000 crore it has to recover from consumers, an amount of Rs.7,000 crore is owed by government departments.

With the mercury soaring and scarcity of drinking water reported from across the state, outages in electricity supply have added to people’s difficulties. In the last one month alone, people in over a dozen towns in Bihar have held angry demonstrations against power woes.

While Bihar has a daily requirement of 2,200-2,500 MW, it generates hardly 45-50 MW of power. The central government supplies around 850 to 1050 MW and the state is facing a power deficit of about 1,000-1,200 MW a day, officials said.

Biharis getting crazy of foreign degrees

Posted: 04 Jun 2011 06:04 AM PDT

PATNA: Going abroad for higher studies is a trend fast catching up in the state. Studying in a foreign country may lighten one’s purse by anything above Rs 10 lakh per annum, however it’s not a deterrent for those aspiring to go beyond seven seas. For, they get a helping hand from banks, which in recent years have eased up the process of giving education loans.

“Barely a few years back, two or three students used to turn up for education loans to study abroad. The number swelled to 15 this year, twice than last year,” said Rajiv Ranjan, assistant general manager, Punjab National Bank (PNB). SBI was approached by 61 students this year, against around 50 last year.

Courses like MBA and PG diploma in various branches of management, engineering and medicine offering great career opportunities are the most preferred choices among students in the city.

“The US and UK are the hottest destinations for career-oriented students,” said Prabhat Kumar, assistant general manager, SBI.

Pushpak Kumar, a passout of Delhi Public School, Patna, who is going to City University, London for MBA said, “I chose UK as MBA is a one-year course there. This would not only be a time saver but also give me an edge over others.”

Australia and Germany are the popular destinations among those interested in medicine. According to PNB’s Ranjan, five students out of 15 who approached the bank for loan, have opted for medical studies.

Sanjeev Kumar, who is going to do software engineering course from University of East London, said, ” Foreign degrees are still confined to the kith and kin of ‘nawabs (haves)’, as banks offer loans on the basis of family income or collateral matching the amount of loan.”

Banks like SBI, PNB, and HDFC Bank ask for either a third party guarantee or collateral for loans above Rs 4 lakh. And if the loan amount is above Rs 7.50 lakh, tangible collateral security (residential property, fixed deposit, LIC/NSC/KVP) matching the amount of loan is mandatory.

“There is special scheme for low income group with annual income below Rs 4.5 lakh,” said Prabhat of SBI, adding, “wherein government pays the interest during the study period.” PNB offers 1% rebate in interest if it is paid by the parents during the study period.

“The maximum period a student gets for repayment of loan is seven years,” Pushkar Gupta, corporate communications, HDFC Bank, Mumbai, told TOI. This tenure is same for most of the banks.

The education loans for overseas universities cover the fees payable to college/university, tuition fees, hostel fee, examination fee, library fee, purchase of books/equipment, any security deposit and the purchase of computer. Banks also pay for travel expenses.

The rate of interest charged by banks per annum varies. SBI charges 13% interest per annum for loans up to Rs 4 lakh, 14.5% for loans between Rs 4 lakh and Rs. 7.50 lakh and 13.5% for loans above Rs 7.50 lakh. While PNB uniformly charges 13.25% on all loans, irrespective of their size, HDFC Bank’s interest varies between 11.5% and 14% per annum. Some banks also offer half-a-per cent lower rates to girls.

Most of the banks, including SBI and HDFC Bank, provide loans up to a maximum of Rs 20 lakh. However, PNB has no ceiling for education loans.

India pressurizing Nepal to shift the course of Kosi

Posted: 04 Jun 2011 04:01 AM PDT

KATHMANDU, June 1: India is putting pressure on Nepal to change the course of the Koshi River, which has shifted toward east after breaching the embankment over two years ago, by constructing a pilot channel that may sweep away a Nepali village development committee (VDC).

India had unilaterally started construction of the pilot channel around two months ago and work was halted after the Saptari District Administration Office issued a directive around seven weeks ago to immediately halt the construction following protests by locals.

A senior officer at the Department of Irrigation (DOI), which monitors the Koshi barrage from the Nepali side, confirmed that the department did not give the pilot channel a go ahead as Gobargada, an island VDC of Saptari with a population of around 1,500 to the south of the barrage, will be swept away if Koshi were brought to the central course. "They did not consult us, as required by the agreement, before starting the pilot channel.

The irrigation department of Bihar contacted us several times after the work was halted. We asked them to use the diplomatic channel in the matter around a month ago," the officer said.

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has himself started to lobby the Indian central government to take up the issue of constructing the pilot channel with the Nepal government.

"The center should immediately take up with Nepal the issue of strengthening and protecting the embankment in the wake of forceful stoppage of work in Nepal and digging of a pilot channel to re-establish the central flow of the river to avoid undue pressure on both the western and the eastern embankments," the Press Trust of India (PTI) had quoted Kumar as saying on Friday.

If the digging of the channel is not resumed, he would meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and External Affairs Minister SM Krishna and urge them to take up the issue with Nepal, the PTI report added. A local journalist in Saptari said Kumar had even visited the site on Saturday and urged Nepali journalists to stop writing negatively about the pilot channel.

The DOI officer said bringing Koshi to the central course may be even more dangerous for Nepal as Koshi may take the western course and threaten the Hanumannagar area to the south of the barrage if the work were not to go exactly according to plan. There is no Nepali land to the south of the barrage on the eastern side and the river has already been under control on the north side of the barrage.

Current status of Koshi

The DOI officer said there was not any real threat on the Nepali side this year. "There is little threat on the western side as the river has taken eastern course and things are better than 2008 (August) when the embankment was breached even on the eastern side," the officer added.

The Indian government became serious about Koshi after the breach, the officer claimed, and the Koshi High Level Technical Committee — that includes the Deputy Director General of DOI and Chairman of the Ganga Flood Control Commission from the Indian side — has been formed.

"The high-level committee meets every November to decide the course of action for the coming monsoon and India carries out the maintenance work with Nepali approval as per the agreement," the officer explained. The whole maintenance work is done by India, the officer contended, with India authorized to work up to 32 km north of the barrage on Nepal´s consent as per the agreement.

The spurs are being repaired, porcupines (barriers that reduce velocity of water flow and stop sand) are being placed at different places for the past two years and dredging machines are being used to weaken the obstructions created by silt at banks. The officer attributed the 2008 breach to such obstructions claiming that the water flow was just 178,000 cusec at the time of breach.

"The water level crosses 300,000 cusec on several occasions every year," the officer revealed.

The barrage was constructed to withstand pressure of 800,000 cusec when it was completed in early 1960s. "But if the water flow were to reach 800,000 cusec, water would overflow from both eastern and western sides of the barrage as the capacity of barrage has been drastically reduced by massive sedimentation," the officer claimed.

"I am told the level had reached 800,000 cusec just a couple of years after completion of the project but it has not crossed 400,000 cusec after that so we can´t exactly forecast the threshold," the officer added.

UK Magazine ‘Alliance’ features Bihar in a special issue

Posted: 03 Jun 2011 09:59 PM PDT

PATNA: Alliance, UK’s leading magazine for philanthropy and social investment worldwide, has done a special feature on Bihar in its June 2011 issue.The feature focuses on the alternative energy sector in Bihar, explores the role of key implementers and discusses how they could work better with the philanthropic sector.Guest editor Simon Desjardins in his article, ‘Why does Bihar matter?’, says there are three main reasons why the state has been chosen as a focus for the special feature. First, for those readers interested in energy provision and the services that could be delivered as a result of rural electricity provision, this state is a hotbed of innovation. Indeed, some of the world’s most ground-breaking rural electrification businesses are scaling up in the state. “We need to learn from them.”Second, energy in Bihar may seem like a narrow focus, irrelevant to a development organization or investor working in education in Africa, for example. The opposite is true. In many ways, Bihar is a proxy for the rest of India, and a unique test bed for technology and service innovation that could be applied throughout the world.Third, because access to products and services is so limited in Bihar, the opportunity to make a significant difference is heightened. Bihar’s 90 million or so inhabitants almost universally lack access to reliable energy, education and health care services, he says in his six-page write-up.The magazine has also profiled a company that uses rice husks and other biomass waste to generate electricity for remote villages. In an interview, Husk Power Systems’ co-founder and CEO Gyanesh Pandey describes the genesis of the idea and his hopes for the future. Also, investors talk about why they provided finance for the project.Simon and Alliance editor Caroline Hartnell paid a weeklong visit to Bihar in March. In her editorial, Caroline says, “The experience of driving through the countryside as it gets dark is fresh in my memory… as dusk approaches, and then night, complete darkness falls across the landscape, the little villages lost from sight.”She further writes, “The desire to bring light and energy to the estimated 75% of the 90 million inhabitants of Bihar who have no access, or extremely limited access, to electricity is the driving force behind entrepreneurs like Gyanesh Pandey of Husk Power Systems and Anish Thakkar of Greenlight Planet, with whom I spent several days, visiting the villages where they are working and talking to the people who are benefiting.”Anish Thakkar of Greenlight Planet talks about his ambition to see kerosene lamps replaced by solar lights throughout India, their system for distributing lamps via village-level direct sellers and their plans for expansion.

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