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Mainstream, VOL XLIX, No 39, September 17, 2011

Rural Innovator Struggles For Justice

Friday 23 September 2011, by Bharat Dogra

A rural scientist, Mangal Singh, has received a patent for an innovation (Mangal Turbine) which can save billions of rupees worth diesel and electricity currently used up for irrigation. Despite the recognition of his work by eminent experts and officials, this scientist has been subjected to relentless harassment by a handful of bureaucrats. A recent evaluation of his work ordered by the Department of Rural Department has indicted these bureaucrats while strongly recommending that Mangal Singh’s excellent work should be spread far and wide.

Lakhs of farmers in India use diesel and electricity for lifting water from streams and rivulets for irrigating their fields. Mangal turbine makes it possible to use the energy of flowing streams for lifting water, thereby replacing diesel and electricity. With some additional arrangements, Mangal turbine can also be used to operate an alternator generating electricity and power several cottage industries. In a huge country like India billions of rupees worth of electricity and diesel can be saved. Alongside a big reduction of greenhouse gas emissions can be achieved. Lastly, farmers can drastically reduce their irrigation expenses.

As Mangal Singh explains, this innovation, called the ‘Water Wheel Turbine cum PTO’ machine or simply Mangal Turbine, functions on the basis of (i) a specially designed water wheel which can rotate even on a low water head of one metre, (ii) stepping up the rotation through a suitable gearbox in the range of 1500-1800 RPM, and (iii) using the available mechanical power by connecting one end of the output shaft with a centrifugal irrigation pump and the other with a suitable pulley to operate other machineries and also an alternator to generate electricity.

Chronic electricity shortages or difficulty in getting diesel create big problems for farmers in providing irrigation to their fields, even if they can afford the expenses. But Mangal Turbine can reduce these problems as well as expenses. This machine can be easily operated by villagers themselves by opening or closing the gate-valves, and its maintenance is easy.

While several experts on the basis of on-the-site inspections praised this work for its great potential and subsequently some government funds were also provided for further work on improving and spreading this technology, a handful of bureaucrats created a lot of hurdles for the rural innovator. First, he was not given adequate funds and funds were unduly delayed, then he was blamed for not completing the work in time. Things became so difficult for the rural innovator that his ancestral agriculture land was auctioned.

However more recently (in April this year) some relief has come his way in the form of an inquiry report of the Ministry of Rural Develop-ment. This report inquired into all the allegations and counter-allegations in the context of the work of Mangal Singh. This report has strongly refuted all allegations against Mangal Singh and recommended that he should be suitably compensated for all the injustice he has suffered so far. In addition help should be made available for the spread of Mangal Turbine.

THERE are wider lessons to be learnt from the experience of Mangal Singh. All the potential and initiative of rural innovators can be stifled if officials who are paid for encouraging such talent in rural areas actually work in such a way as to harass and humiliate the rural innovators. One hopes that the recent inquiry report will be used as the basis for systemic changes in the government set-up for dealing with rural innovators.

Mangal Singh is not just an innovator but also an activist against corruption. His latest campaign is against a big dam/irrigation project which is being implemented near his ancestral village in Bar Block (Lalitpur district of Uttar Pradesh). The alignment of Kachnada dam canal has been changed in an arbitrary way which will bring millions of rupees for the construction lobby but will cause unnecessary submergence of a lot of farmland. An artificial hill will have to be unnecessarily created requiring huge amounts of soil which in turn will destroy more land and also endanger a tank and supporting dam near the Bhailonilodh village. On the one hand there is such wastage of crores of rupees in destructive work; on the other hand the spread of Mangal Turbine, which could have saved billions of rupees, was sought to be sabotaged by uncaring bureaucrats!

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