Innovating India-1

Much before Ratan Tata announced his project of Rs 1 lakh car, I used to have discussions with my friends about an Rs 1lakh tractor. I wrote too. Few months ago, I heard of one company that had started offering Rs 1 lakh tractor. I wonder if the company is doing that with commercial success. But it is a shame that none of the many big companies in India that manufacture tractors took up the challenge to produce a reliable tractor that could be affordable too for the millions of farmers having pitiably small holdings and money to spare. Unfortunately banks also hardly provide the credit to small farmers to get the credit at lower interest for buying the tractors. If Tata can think of a car for the people, why can’t Mahindra do the same for a tractor?

One of the earliest projects of Mechanical Engineering Research Institute at Durgapur related to the design of an Indian tractor, perhaps named as Swaraj that was commercially produced too. However, it can still take up the task to make one with a target price of Rs 1 lakh or less. Unfortunately, even the power tiller today costs more than a lakh. Mindset of manufacturers in the country must change towards real innovation that can cut cost of the tractors for the users.

It was a pleasure to read about two rural innovators who have done some pioneering work to develop two farm equipment: mini-tractor and motorcycle plough, that will go a long way to help the small farmer.

Bhanjibhai Mathukia, 65, of village Kalavad in Junagarh has finally signed a technology transfer agreement with an Anand-based company for his 10 HP farmer friendly tractor that he developed out of available components and parts such as a gearbox of an Mahindra Jeep, the front tyre of Padmini car and rear wheels of jeep, and a fixed-speed stationary engine. However, it is Prof Anil K Gupta of IIM, Ahmedabad, already reputed for his GIAN, Grassroots Innovations Augmentation Network who got Bhanjibhai’s innovation transformed into a marketable product using all his resources. Department of scientific and industrial research funded Rs 6 lakh for prototype development and fine tuning the product. The tractor got a customized transmission, a power take off system and a contemporary industrial external design, and the mandatory acceptance from Central Farm Machinery Testing Institute at Budni (MP)

Mansukhbhai Jagani, 42, of Mota Devalia village in Amreli has converted a Bullet motorcycle into an efficient mechanical plough. Jagani has managed to sell 150 bike-cum-tractors. Jagani developed an attachment that could be fitted by replacing the rear wheel of any powerful motorcycle. The device can perform many farming operations such as ploughing, sowing, inter-culturing, and spraying in fruit crops. The machine can cover four hectares in an hour for groundnut cultivation and consumes a litre of oil an hour.

Beside GIAN, Anil Gupta has other initiatives too to help the grass-root innovations working such as Society for Research and initiatives for sustainable Technologies and Institutions SRISTI and SRISTI Sadbhav Sanshodhan, a lab that helps the grass root innovators in commercialization of the product. However it is pity that Indian Council for Agriculture Research with all facilities hardly helps the farmers. The same is true for many technical institutes that could have help the rural entrepreneurs in fine tuning the design and processes to make the products compete with China instead of finding excuses for not doing that.

All the professional institutes and agriculture universities must work with the farmers to find out the assistances necessary for them to remove the bottlenecks and make the farming profitable.

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