Not very long ago, we had featured Suprio Das’s Firefly, the battery that gets charged as a rickshaw puller goes about his daily chores, and the Mansukhbhai Jagani’s Bullet Santi, an attachment that helps an Enfield motorcycle double up as a plough. Like many of you, we too felt that the Government of India should support and encourage such novel innovations that help the rural Indian.
The good news is that the Government is taking steps towards encouraging indigenous innovations like these. The President of India had declared 2010-2020 as the Decade of Innovation, and the Prime Minister set up a National Innovation Council under the Chairmanship of Mr. Sam Pitroda, Advisor to the PM on Public Information Infrastructure and Innovations to discuss, analyse and help implement strategies for inclusive innovation in India. NIC would be the first step in creating a crosscutting system which will provide mutually reinforcing policies, recommendations and methodologies to implement and boost innovation performance in the country.
In its first innovation challenge by NIC, the most promising one is Pratik Kumar Ghosh’s redesign of the conventional cycle-rickshaw that will utilize passenger load and bumps on the road to propel the rickshaw and reduce the puller’s effort. The innovator, 55, works as an assistant general manager with Shriram EPC Ltd, Kolkata.
As per Ghosh, in conventional rickshaws,
- the chassis is horizontal and the load acts as dead load without any forward component,
- the chassis currently is fixed at all three points with the triangular frame, hence requires more power to propel, and
- the passenger weight directly falls on the axle.
Ghosh proposes to fix these three limitations by modifying the design in the following ways:
- The chassis is at an angle of 10 degrees to the ground leaning to the front. Rest is Physics. Any load through the axis of the chassis will have a forward component that will assist propulsion.
- The chassis is hinged at the pedal hub and the two other points are fixed with the frame. Since the hinged point acts as pivot, the shock generated by the road is transmitted as a force to the frame and makes the hostile road favourable to the puller.
- The seat frame is tubular and the rear two legs will not swing and remain pressed to the bearing box horizontally, converting the downward passenger load to horizontal forward propulsive force.
It is noteworthy that the reduction in required muscle power is achieved at a point where it is required the most–the speed of a vehicle travelling at constant speed would reduce immediately after a bump or a hump, and that is exactly where the new design provides an additional force. Elementary Physics, and we see a reduced effort on the end of a hard worker.
The Innovation Challenge to Reduce Worker Drudgery was launched in October 2011, and had received 468 proposals by January 2012, sent in by institutions and individuals of all backgrounds such as students, engineers, government officials, professionals, and teachers, among others from diverse socio-economic backgrounds from across the country. These were shortlisted to 33 proposals by end February, after which 6 winners were chosen by April 2012. Needless to add, each finalist would receive focused support from the National Innovation Council, to take their ideas to the next level.
Apart from the rickshaw-redesign, the six winning innovations include a human powered motor, a vessel desk, a display unit for street vendors, a low cost cycle for physically challenged, and devices to reduce the drudgery of construction workers and sanitation workers.