Innovating India- Some Unknown Unsung Heroes

M.J. Joseph Appachan, 50, a small farmer and a high school dropout in Kerala has invented a coconut tree-climbing device, which can be used by anyone to climb a tree to pluck nuts, tap the basic ingredient of toddy, the indigenous liquor, or spray insecticides. The simple and safe device consists of two steel foot pedals connected by wires and steel pipes with which one can climb a 40-m palm in just two to three minutes. This time equals half of what one usually needs to reach the treetop.

Madan Lal Kumawat, 41solved the problem of damaged grain in the threshers. The threshers available from Punjab were not multi-grain friendly and took two-and-ahalf hours to change the fitting according to the type of grain. Kumawat has refined the process by adding six meshes of different sizes that can easily be pulled out and replaced within 10 minutes. He reduced the diameter of the rotating drum, which reduced diesel consumption by a litre for every hour it ran. An air circulation system with a fan helped separate the grain from the husk. When farmers complained that they had to climb on top of the thresher to feed the grain, he brought the mouth to a lower level. Kumawat’s thresher processes wheat, cumin seeds, mustard, millet, maize, gram, and moong. He is still improvising it to process groundnut better as farmers want it to be lightweight and not wasted as much. Kumawat sells over a dozen threshers at Rs 1.85 lakh a piece every season, and makes a profit of Rs 18,000 on each.

Raghava Gowda, 54, a schoolteacher and dairy farm owner from Murulya in Karnataka has developed elaborate milking machine (Milk Master) that can milk cows and buffaloes using a set of reciprocating vacuum pumps with a gauge, a suction assembly unit and a bubble-free gasketed milk canister to collect the milk. The suction assembly has two sub-assemblies with a set of nipples and a stainless steel plate on one side and transparent conduit pipes and a regulator valve on the other. The procedure is simple and can work with a hand pump or foot pedal, as well as with an AC and DC battery that means no human intervention during the milking. As the machine creates the effect of a calf suckling the udders, it is not only painless but also soothing for the cows. It can milch about 15 litres of milk in three minutes flat. Gowda sold his at Rs 6,000, at less than one-fifteenth of existing devices. Gowda has sold over 2,000 machines at Rs 9,000 today, in Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and even Jammu and Kashmir. Interestingly, Gowda has a registered patent for his innovation, the right of which was sought for over Rs 1 crore recently by a company that wanted to market it commercially.

Arvind Patel, 54, has developed a natural water cooler-one that would not require an external energy source. The water cooler cools water to 23 degrees Celsius when the outside temperature is 44 degrees. It has a copper drum, which is wrapped in a copper coil covered with viscose cloth. An overhead tank fills water in the drum while at the same time the water passes through the coil. A connection above makes water drip on the viscose-covered coil. A tap is linked to the coil to allow one to collect drinking water. Water remains stored both in the drum and the coil. The Gujarat Energy Development Agency (GEDA) has sold 250 units of Patel’s patented natural water cooler at Rs 25,000 a piece after buying them from a local industrialist whom Patel has given a manufacturing license. The National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development has sanctioned an Rs 5-lakh loan to Patel to perfect the design of the one-tonne refrigerator, which requires no electricity and is targeted at farmers and small food processors.

Mujeeb Khan, 33, who hasn’t been able to walk since the age of 2 because of polio and worked to adapt cars of all makes, be it Maruti 800, Alto or Logan for the use by physically handicapped persons. Mujib now modifies the car that allows the use of either hands or feet or both, and charges between Rs 10,000- 15,000 for small cars like the lower-end models of Maruti and Alto and Rs 20,000 for bigger cars, plus a labour fee of Rs 2,000.

Mansukhbhai Patel, 54, improved the design of cotton stripping machine. The machine has brought down the cost of stripping cotton from around Rs 1 per kg to Rs 1 for 20 kg, ensuring not only quick returns for farmers but also improving the quality of processing. The main components of the machine, which costs Rs 2 lakh, are a metallic wire and a brush that work together to pluck out cotton from the cotton ball. The manual removal of cotton from the pod used to cost between Rs 10 and Rs 15 per 20 kg, with the new and improved cotton stripper, the costs have dipped to only a rupee. Patel has got both an Indian and an American patent for his research. Patel and his sons are now busy in developing a saline resistant brick, which will be useful in large tracts of Saurashtra and north Gujarat. Patel’s own enterprise, Chetak Industries at Viramgam today, along with its two sister concerns, has a turnover of over Rs 4 crore.

Kambel Chulai, 69: 8,000-strong Pnar tribe in the Jaintia Hills of Meghalaya as well, which forsook tradition in favour of Ka Khnap-Thangbru, a modern, eco-friendly crematorium designed by this unlettered 69-year-old in Jowai. Compared to the traditional method, it is a permanent structure and consumes much less wood to burn a body. Instead of Rs 5,000, the crematorium uses just Rs 200 worth of wood to cremate a body. There is no need for electricity, and that can be a boon for rural India where in most places dead bodies are burned in the open causing ecological havoc.

Anil Kumar Gupta, a professor at the Centre for Management in Agriculture at IIM-Ahmedabad (IIM-A) can be called the hero of the grassroots innovation. Gupta and his organizations such as National Innovation Foundation (NIF), Society for Research and Initiatives for Sustainable Technologies and Institutions (SRISTI), Honeybee network, and Grassroots Innovation Augmentation Network (GIAN) have done pioneering work for unleashing the innovative spirit of rural India. NIF now presides over a database of traditional knowledge comprising 75,000 innovations and practices from across the country, that touches almost every sphere, from transport, energy and food technology to agriculture and livestock. SRISTI has recently come out with two interesting findings:

Two Assamese brothers, Mehtar Hussain and Mustaque Hussain designed a windmill made of bamboo and tin sheets that costs just Rs 25,000 to pump water into their farm at a low cost. The windmill will now help poor salt workers of the Rann of Kutch in Gujarat draw water from the earth bed with no running costs, a relief from the huge amounts spent on fuel for diesel pumps. Another discovery is that made by a tribal of a local plant leaf in Orissa that helps ripen fruits in a natural, organic way. It will prove useful to the food-processing industry as a substitute for the chemicals that are currently used in ripening fruits.

There are many stories of the individual innovators that ‘India Today’ has brought out in its wonderful special issue. I requested my friend Popli to go through the issue and request every one to do that to know what all are happening in Innovating India.

I wish ‘India Today’ had provided the contact details of these innovators too.

Can we agree if the West says India can’t innovate?
PS: Innovations must be covered in media. It is unfortunate that the people at large hardly come to know about the researches of our scientists and technocrats in defence and government institutions. It must come in media as it comes in US. Even US Army designates year’s best inventions

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