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We should be discreet in using terms which make sense and do not denigrate the experimental and innovative ethic of common people. It is true that many a time people may do right things for wrong reason. But then, identifying the right reason and feeding it back to the people is the responsibility of the scientists.

Tremendous experimental ethic is evident among people while attempting local solutions.  Some of the lazy intellectuals have tried to turn all frugal solutions as ‘jugaad’.  A 250 USD ECG machine by GE, low cost healthcare by Naryan Hrudalaya, clay refrigerator by Manuskhbhai, etc, are all supposed to be ‘jugaad’!  Surely, a term used so loosely becomes meaningless to characterise any systematic aspect of frugal innovation.

The tinkering, i.e., makeshift arrangements for solving problems, are tried everywhere in the world.  When water leaks from car radiators, people use soap to plug the leak.  If a wire has to be put in a socket and it does not fir the plug properly, matchstick is used to create a tighter grip — something that has been done by almost every electrician [regardless of safety]. Using diesel engine for transporting people and goods has worked as a makeshift arrangement and may indeed be a ‘jugaad’.  But, for someone like Mansukhbhai Prajapati, who has developed seven different machines to make clay refrigerator and non-stick pans, his circular kiln and large-sized vertical kilns cannot be called ‘jugaad’.  

We should be discreet in using terms which make sense and do not denigrate the experimental and innovative ethic of common people.  It is true that many a time people may do right things for wrong reason.  But then, identifying the right reason and feeding it back to the people is the responsibility of the scientists. Sometimes, people know the right thing but do not abstract the principle underlying it.  Local communities have preserved milk by periodic heating and cooling for long periods without using refrigerator. 

They may not have isolated the scientific principle underlying that. They have known how to prevent spoilage of pickles for many years without any artificial chemical preservative. The science of the same may not have been isolated systematically.  The socio-cultural context of grassroots innovations and outstanding traditional knowledge needs to be understood more empathetically. 
 
Many Indian scholars, policy makers and students have lapped up this term mindlessly. Few of them realise that simple innovations sometimes are hardest to design; how else do we explain so much inertia in public and many of the private systems.

I will share the insights learned from the 31st shodhyatra in Wardha region next week. But one innovation, which generated a tremendous interest, is worth mentioning. Due to frequent drought and deprivation, lot of people migrate in search of work and also to graze their animals. 

One of the common problems in Vidharbha region is the failure of rains at critical stages of the crop. Sometimes, farmers sow the crop looking at good early rains, but at a later critical stage, rains fail and thus, the whole crop fails. Given the loss of crop, in some of the cases, unfortunate consequence of farmers’ suicide also takes place. In such cases, life saving irrigation can make a difference between life and death. Former president Pratibha Patil posed this dilemma last year and involved several grassroots innovators to attempt solution to this problem.

Two ideas, which came out, are worth mentioning. One was to attach a raingun to a tanker attached with a five hp motor so that water can be taken from a place where it is available to the farm and then either directly from tanker or by taking the raingun where it is needed, critical irrigation could be provided by mobile irrigation system. Dharamveer of Yamunanagar, a national award winner, developed this idea and demonstrated it during the recent shodhyatra. It created tremendous enthusiasm among the local communities. People were very keen to have such a service on rental basis.

Another solution was to take water in small hand-drawn cart and then provide drip irrigation near the roots of the crops. The difference these innovations can make between life and death cannot be called  ‘jugaad’. I hope that we will change our attitude towards incremental innovations, so vital for making the difference at the community level.

News Link: http://www.dnaindia.com/analysis/column-jugaad-and-mdash-a-misnomer-for-majority-of-grassroots-innovations-1833953