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Great innovations from small town India

Source: PTI
August 25, 2006 20:17 IST
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A bicycle that can peddle both on water and the road, a motorcycle used to pump out water from deep wells and a cellphone that can switch on electrical appliances within a specific radius!

Self-taught mechanics in India are pioneering these and many more. With such inventions, self-taught mechanics or villagers with little or no formal education to their credit are transforming the limited opportunities available to them in remote and rural areas, say experts.

"Formal and informal science can be linked to create new innovations and transform the opportunities available in rural India," says Anil Gupta of the Indian Institute of Management, who has taken upon himself to collect and collate such traditional information scattered all over the country under his Honey Bee network.

Students of the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras designed jackets that could carry water after he showed them a picture of a woman carrying a pot of water across a vast and arid desert, Gupta says.

Prem Singh, a class 10 dropout from Ambala modified his cellphone and it can now be used to switch any electrical appliance within a certain specified radius... all this development just cost him nearly Rs 2000, Gupta, who teaches at the IIM, says.

Prof Gupta, who runs many self-development groups, says under National Innovation Fund of India it was essential to encourage youth, especially technology students to undertake projects that address real life problems of rural enterprises.

Giving the example of an amphibious bicycle developed by a rural innovator Saidullah that could float on water and pedal on road he said it would if used during the recent Mumbai floods saved themselves from walking 20 to 30 kms to reach their homes.

The professor, who in his spare time walks several kilometres through villages to collect such information, has suggested formation of knowledge centres in rural areas that would provide know how about scientific advances to innovators in villages.

Gupta who has been working to bring such innovations to the forefront through the organisations of Srishti, Gian and NIF has already located manufacturers for some of these innovations.

MIT has shown interest in the rope climbing device of the coconut farmer Appachan in Kerala and M-Cam ( a technology marketing firm in the USA has successfully sold a license to a Virginia based company for the manufacture of a foot operated spray pump developed in Gujarat.

Gupta advocates for a change in the bureaucratic mindset and says officials "must acknowledge the limitation of our current institutions and knowledge management system and appreciate the need for a change."

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