In an otherwise ‘electricity surplus’ Gujarat, the International Finance Corporation, a member of the World Bank Group, on Thursday announced a partnership with the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) for providing solar stoves and lanterns to its two lakh rural women members in the State.

For this, IFC will provide a partial credit guarantee for a $5-million (about Rs 250 crore) loan that ICICI Bank is providing to SEWA-sponsored Grassroots Trading Network for Women (GTNW).

The loan will be used for on-lending to SEWA members to purchase cook stoves and lanterns, Ms Karin Finkelston, Vice-President for Asia and Pacific, IFC, said here.

Mr Anurag Bhatnagar, CEI, GTNW, told Business Line that three companies have been short-listed for supply of solar stoves and lanterns. While Alpha Renewables (Borsad, Gujarat) and Pegasus (Ahmedabad) will supply stoves and lanterns, respectively, Gautam Polymers, an Uttarakhand-based company, will also supply lanterns.

Besides, SEWA is also in talks with Phillips for supply of stoves.

Under the IFC-SEWA arrangement, women members will be provided a loan of Rs 4,800 to Rs 6,000, depending upon the products selected, repayable with 15 per cent interest in 16 installments, for buying solar equipment from the designated suppliers under this “Hariyali” project, said Ms Reema Nanavaty, Director, SEWA.

The annual market for solar lanterns and cook stoves in India is estimated at $500 million and $400 million, respectively.

SEWA currently has 13 lakh members across nine States, where the Hariyali project has the potential for expansion, Ms Nanavaty said.

The SEWA Bank could not finance its rural members as it is an urban cooperative bank (UCB).

According to some of the SEWA members, although Gujarat has no electricity problem in the urban areas, villagers often find electricity unaffordable due to erratic supply, over-billing for undersupply and other problems. The IFC-SEWA initiative could, therefore, benefit a large number of rural poor.

The IFC-SEWA combine is also working to enroll PSU banks in the initiative.

(This article was published on May 24, 2012)
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