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Category NIF 5th Competition AWARDs
Title Fifth National Biennial Award for Grassroots Technological Innovations and Outstanding Traditional Knowledge
Abstract In its 5th Biennial Campaign,(1st January, 2005 to 31st December, 2006), NIF received more than 37000 ideas, innovations and traditional knowledge practices from 31 states and Union Territories. More than 90 percent were of course herbal entries. The awards for herbal entries are subject to the condition that the claims have been scientifically validated. Limited resources have not made it possible for NIF to screen tens of thousands of such practices, despite existence of enormous potential for the same. The motivations of innovators vary from solving their own problems to addressing the problems of communities and other people. Every award signifies a determination on the part of a person or a community to transcend constraints rather than submitting to them. We look forward to hearing from readers if they know of examples of similar creativity in their neighbourhood or otherwise, or if they wish to join the value chain around some of these ideas or make any other kind of voluntary contribution.
Details The Fifth National Biennial Award Function for Grassroots Technological Innovations and Outstanding Traditional Knowledge was held at Indian Agriculture Research Institute (IARI), Delhi on 18th November, 2009. Honourable President of India Smt. Pratibha Devisingh Patil conferred the national and state level awards on innovators, traditional knowledge holders, students and representatives of communities. A total of 72 awards were given in five categories, viz. National (29, including 6 student national awards), State (10), Diffusion (2), Community (1) and Consolation (28) for agricultural, mechanical, transport and energy related technologies in addition to one posthumous recognition. Three Appreciation certificates were also given for herbal traditional knowledge. The awards for herbal category are subject to the claims having been scientifically validated. Rigorous screening was done at different levels to ascertain the novelty, distinction and/or cost effectiveness on all entries. Short list of potential awards was screened by the Research Advisory Committee comprising the Heads of R & D institutions, experts from Engineering, Agricultural and Veterinary colleges and from the academia. A total sum of Rs. 15,42,500 was distributed as prize money to innovators. In addition, ten media awards were also given to journalists who have contributed in disseminating information regarding the activities of NIF and Honey Bee Network to the masses. A special mention may be made here to the Farmers’ Notebook column in The Hindu, which has generated unprecedented response from all over the country. The innovators have never received hundreds of calls soon after publication of the weekly column anywhere else before. An exhibition of the awarded and promising grassroots technologies was held at the venue for the interest of entrepreneurs, scientists and experts, students, media and the public at large on 18th- 19th November, 2009. Honourable President encouraged the innovators while visiting the exhibition and exhorted them to scale up their ventures through mass production for helping the larger sections of society. Dr R A Mashelkar, Chairperson, NIF recalled the words of the Honourable President in her speech in the House of Parliament declaring the next ten years as the Decade of Innovation in India. He underlined the fact that NIF had created a new benchmark by gathering over 135,000 innovations and traditional knowledge practices from more than 500 districts. The challenge now was to screen these, prioritise and validate them and then diffuse them through commercial and non-commercial channels by partnering with formal system of innovation. Honourable President visualized innovation as an answer to many of the national and international problems like food security and climate change. She called for a Second Green Revolution. Innovation could also be used for effective implementation of welfare schemes to avoid delays and leakages in our governance system. She stressed that it was a fallacy to think that innovation happens only in sophisticated laboratories. It could be a result of experiences encountered in the ‘laboratory of life’ or collective knowledge of civilization. She expressed her appreciation for innovations like Mallesham’s Laxmi Asu Machine which are not only cost-effective, but also reduces the drudgery of women. She advocated the need for preserving the rich reservoir of traditional knowledge of India and advised that the knowledge holders be given due recognition by building upon their knowledge. India, she stressed, has already stepped into the knowledge society. She exhorted the government to lay down a National Innovation Policy so that institutions and networks work closely with local communities to contribute in enhancing the value addition in knowledge. Research institutions of the nation should join global knowledge networks. To propel India’s emergence as an innovative economy, Honourable President called for an education system that encourages creativity and a capacity to think in a novel fashion. She wanted an exhibition of grassroots technologies to be organized in Rashtrapati Bhawan to provide peoples’s ideas a much bigger audience. Dr R A Mashelkar, in his address, reiterated that the ‘I’ in India, Industry, Institution and every Individual must not be for ‘Inhibition’ or ‘Imitation’, but should be for ‘Innovation’ in order to make the entire nation, a laboratory. He applauded the spirit of NIF and Honey Bee Network, describing these not just a set of ‘organizations’ but actually a ‘social movement’ that undertakes ShodhYatras in villages, identifies creative capacity of every individual, celebrates their success and is thus marching on the way of setting the world on fire. He applauded the power of young minds, a testimony to which is ‘Techpedia.in’, a portal that has more than 100 thousand projects of final year engineering under-graduates. Supporting the message given by the Honourable President, Dr Mashelkar challenged NIF to join hands with other organizations to work as a ‘Team India’ to propel mass production of innovative products. Huge breakthroughs could be made by scientifically validating herbal therapeutics. Dr Mashelkar proudly quoted the Global Indigenous Knowledge and Innovation Partnership (GIKIP) that took a cue from the Honey Bee Network model as well as the World Bank Institute Report on Innovation in which its activities have been richly drawn upon. To overcome the apparent attitudinal dissonance between the traditional medicine practitioners and scientists/doctors, he suggested the meeting of the two rivers; the river of traditional knowledge such as Arya Vaidyasala and NIF database and the river of modern knowledge being CSIR. The terms ‘Frugal Engineering’ and ‘Gandhian Engineering’ had been coined up recently, but Indians, since ages have been experts in getting more from less for more and more people, thus personifying the adage ‘Bahujan Hitaay, Bahujan Sukhay’. Dr Mashelkar concluded by observing that the grassroots innovations being inclusive in nature have the potential to create not just ‘value for money’ but ‘value for many’. Dr T Ramasami, Secretary to Government, Department of Science and Technology and the Governing Council Member, NIF, pointed out the need for society to profit from the innovations in future. He appreciated that NIF’s database of innovations was an outstanding accomplishment through fruitful investment of the annual grant received by the organization. He hoped that NIF’s activities will become more effective after it was strengthened in the near future. Informal Meeting of Network Members with Innovators Innovators were encouraged to undertake small Shodhyatras in their own regions rather than relying on SRISTI and NIF. It was stressed that all the yatris financed their cost of travel, stay and food during Shodhyatras organised by SRISTI twice a year. The insights from the Shodhyatras proved how invalid the Maslowian framework of hierarchy of needs was. Many examples were formed where economically disadvantaged people had tried to aim at higher order self-actualisation through pursuit of community or social goods. It was suggested that postcards could be written on the eve of New Year to people in various villages carrying a message about NIF and Honey Bee Network. Jamunaben Patel, herbal healer, Gujarat, suggested that even in social gatherings, awareness could be spread by demonstrating innovations to people and children. Network members collectively agreed that Honey Bee Network had successfully created a knowledge system, but there was a need for an honest introspection to meet future challenges. Questions were asked, ‘Have we been able to leverage our knowledge system? How often have we sought an opportunity to learn from each other?’ Knowledge had been successfully collected, yet of what use it was if it did not positively impact the life of tens of thousands of people who were looking for solutions to different problems? Innovators were urged to set up information systems locally by which farmers, technicians and other villagers could write postcards to them describing their problem. In turn, they could write postcards to disseminate possible solutions. Thus by deploying minimal resources, four objectives could be achieved; solving people’s problems by linking formal and informal science, enhancing people-to-people learning, expansion of Honey Bee Network at respective regional levels and promotion of NIF’s activities in adding value and providing risk capital. An example of Prakash Singh Raghuvanshi was discussed in this context. He distributes seeds of his Kudrat varieties of wheat and paddy in different parts of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Haryana, Punjab and other states. It was suggested that innovators could use this occasion to create markets for each other’s innovations. Salt farmers of Gujarat found the simple low-cost windmill made of bamboo and tin sheets made by two brothers Mehtar Hussain and Mushtaq Ahmed in Assam useful. Subsequently GIAN-W, with the help of NIF, got the design improved and got it installed in the Little Rann of Kutch in association with Ahmedabad based NGOs and local salt farmers. If such creativity went unexplored and untapped, can we blame Naxalism?
Volume No. Honey bee 20 (4), 10 to 13, 2009 & 2010