“If men can afford to buy mobile phones why can’t they afford to buy Solar Cookers”..

“Cooking in smoky kitchen is violence against women”….

Jimmy Volunteer at Lotus Temple 1986

Jimmy McGilligan Centre for Sustainable Development has been named after late Mr. James (Jimmy) R. McGilligan O.B.E, a land reclamation contractor from Northern Ireland, came to India as a U.K Baha’i pioneer to give his voluntary service in response to a call from Baha’i world Centre. He sold his business and machinery to move to India and finally made it his home. He served in India for Sustainable Community Development 25 years (1986-2011) until he breathed his last in Indore on April 21,2011 following a fatal road accident near Ujjain. He always liked himself to be called “Jimmy”. He started his service in India in 1986 at the Bahá’í House of Worship (the ‘Lotus Temple’) in Delhi during its dedication ceremony.

After that, he served at Rabbani, a residential School for rural boys, near Gwalior. Baha’i World Centre commended his sacrificial efforts of manually fencing the boundary wall around 72 acres, reclaiming the saline marshes land, flood-control by integrated irrigation-drainage system, making it productive and self-sustainable. Before he wanted to go back to Northern Ireland after completing all his mission, he wanted to see the Barli Development Institute For Rural Women.He came on October 16, 1988 and gave his voluntary service for three weeks during a state level big Workshop and Exhibition of technologies for Rural and Tribal women sponsored by MAPCOST on 3-6 Nov 1988, organised and hosted by the Barli Institute at its campus.

Baha’i Wedding On Nov 27,1988 at Hotel Picadily in Chandigarh

He got married with the director of the Institute Janak Palta on November 27,1988. Jimmy soon established his identity as Jeejaji. Just after few days their brief honeymoon, they started their marriage in service together in a one-room apartment in the dormitory of the Institute. The very next morning, he started his unconditional service without any expectation for a “package”, “position” “facilities” or “comforts.” He was later appointed as a Manager of the Institute and rendered his exemplary service by putting his body, mind and soul into the Institute’s overall development.

Jimmy had no professional training or degrees but with high degree of spirit of service and diverse skills he developed all the infrastructure of this eco friendly Institute that attained self-sufficiency in food .

He set up a sustainable farm for the production of vegetables, lintels,herbs, fruits etc. to make the Institute as self-sufficient as possible, using minimal fertilisers and natural methods of composting farms wastes, including vermi-composting. Jimmy also set up a sprinkler irrigation system using reused wash water and recharging water sources with harvested rainwater.

His other strengths were information technology and audio-visual development. At night he was always ‘glued’ to the computer, developing and manning the website and the audiovisual materials . He enjoyed driving his wife and the staff in a non-ac gypsy jeep more than 200,000 kilometres to the roughest, remotest and crime-prone areas of Jhabua, Alirajpur, Dhar, Khargone and Bastar region.


Jimmy with tribal friend

Many times he would spend weeks in tribal villages without proper food, mineral water or toilet. He enjoyed taking thousands of photos and videos. Having driven back to the Institute, he could work on manually digging the land, make gardens and roads without any rest or break.

Jimmy pioneered the manufacturing and installing of 5 large community solar kitchens at Barli Campus, Jhabua, Dattigaon, Dhani and Shradhanand Ashram, Indore in 1998. He installed the only solar storage cooker at Barli and later various models of Scheffler Solar Cookers.


Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II conferring James(Jimmy)McGilligan With OBE

He promoted the technology to communities in India and many countries around the globe. Today 500 domestic parabolic cookers are in use. Women trained at Barli from village Nathudhana in Betul district are making their livelihood through solar food processing. In Semlipura village of Dhar district, a family is generating income by running a solar Tea Stall. Users find these cookers “gender friendly” “easier to use”, “more hygienic and healthier than firewood”. They also feel “Safer” as they are no more vulnerable to sexual abuse & rape when they have to walk long distances to collect firewood.

Jimmy innovated and installed many other Solar technologies like Water heaters, Dryers, Oven, Water Distiller, Fuel Efficient, smoke free community kitchen and Briquetting machine. He gave live demonstrations to thousands of visitors at Barli and presented papers in India and many parts of the World.

In November 2008, he was conferred with the Order of the British Empire (OBE) by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II for his ‘services to social causes and the use of alternative energy in rural communities in India’


Jimmy and Janak

Actually, he loved and enjoyed it all – especially when thousands of tribal people and the Institute staff popularly called him ‘jeejaji’ (brother-in-law/sister’s husband ). He used to be so proud of being Jeejaji many times stated “ I married Janak and married half of India.” By working with his wife and respecting her as his Director without any ego issue, Jimmy actualized one of the Baha’i principle of gender equality in his daily life that ‘the world of humanity has two wings; one is woman and the other man. Not until both wings are equally developed can the bird fly . . .’ In fact, their work at the Institute enriched their personal life, especially through being able to work together as a couple, sharing the same vision and beliefs and trying to learn how to apply them together.

At 67 years of age, Jimmy’s last project was building their post-retirement abode “Giridarshan “(mountain view) at Sanawadiya village the outskirts of 20 kms Indore. Even while building his own home, his commitment to the community around him became his priority and with the collaboration of Daly College and RSIS, he envisioned, planned, physically built all the poles and successfully installed 2 Kilowatt wind and solar hybrid power plant at Giridarshan that powers 19 streets of a small hamlet of 32 tribal families of landless labourers in their neighbourhood. He and his wife were looking forward to their retirement on April 16, 2011 and move to their dream house and continue their service to community.

God had different plans! He met with a road accident on April 4 and he succumbed to injuries on April 21. It seems he came to Indore to serve Barli Institute and depart from there on April 23 to rest in peace in Baha’i Gulistan in Indore.

For Jimmy, work was worship and service was prayer. He lived a life full of “Duty + love + sacrifice =Service.” He is remembered for his love, care , sacrifices and adjustments he made to serve the people in India. His wife Janak McGilligan is maintaining and running this power station. He continues to inspire her to render her services to their community as well as society at large that they had planned together.

Jimmy McGilligan Centre for Sustainable Development is striving to continue his mission of Sustainable Development .


Awards And Honors


Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II conferring James(Jimmy)McGilligan With Order of British Empire
By: Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth
Year: 2008
Helping Prevention of Blindness Honour during Rashtriya Suraksha Award
On: 23 July 2007
Jimmy and Janak Shirin Gadhia Sustainability Award Gujrat 2011
By: Shirin Gadhia Foundation
Year: 2011
Alex Memorial Innovative Social Educators AwardBy: Centre for Development and Harmony (CDH) Bhopal
On: 2010-2011For: for making a significant contribution to the holistic education of young women belonging to the underprivileged sections of the society. The award is in recognition of their contribution towards the empowerment of girls and young women.