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These winners seek to make working life more safe

Source: NDTV, 4th April, 2012

New Delhi: He's 70 years old, but almost jumped with childlike glee when he was called to accept his award. Jitendra Nath Das made sure he got his photos clicked with Sam Pitroda and Minister for Rural Development Jairam Ramesh when he received his award from the National Innovation Council, taking another minute to get photographs clicked on his own camera he had carried along.

Earlier, an employee with the municipal corporation in Kolkata, he knew first-hand the problems facing the sanitation department workers. So instead of just complaining about it, he went ahead and devised a way to de-clog sanitation drains. It's an innovation that's bagged him a spot among six winners chosen from over 400 entries.

An excited Jitendra Nath Das told us, "Workers face a lot of problem. This design now helps make their job easier."

Like Jitendra Nath Das, 24-year-old Raghunath Lohar also got his idea from a personal experience. Five years ago, while construction work was in progress at his home in Kolhapur, the heavy load of bricks a woman worker was carrying on her head fell, badly injuring her foot. He held on to the thought that kept bothering him for five years when he saw an ad in the newspaper last year, asking for innovative ideas to ease the drudgery of workers.

Called 'The Challenge', the award programme was launched last October, asking for innovative ideas from across the country in the areas of design improvement of work implements, models for business opportunities, new equipment and techniques for different occupational groups like blue-collar workers, street vendors and construction labour. The focus was on innovations that would make it easier and safer for the working class population to earn their livelihoods.

Raghunath Lohar is studying aeronautical engineering through a correspondence course in Chennai, and hopes the Rs. 50,000 cash prize will help him make his innovation reach more people who need it.

It's what the National Innovation Council also hopes to do. Sam Pitroda, Advisor to the Prime Minister and Chairman of the National Innovation Council said, "The primary focus is to drive innovation that benefits the common man. For too long, innovation has been focused on the problems of the rich. The kind of ideas generated by this Innovation Challenge are just a starting point to engage the wider community to solve problems for the bottom of the pyramid."

Ajith T Alex, Mahesh P V and Anand Ganesh were together in the same college in Chennai when they designed the cycle that could be operated only with the feet. The idea took birth after Anand's relative lost his hand in an accident and faced a lot of trouble to get even basic work done. Now ready with the prototype, these young innovators hope the recognition is the first step in a long journey.

Jairam Ramesh, Minister for Rural Development quipped, "Every Indian has at least 10 ideas to do the other man's job better." On a more serious note he added, "We need to scale this up now. Innovations to reduce drudgery at work are important especially as far as women are concerned."

The National Innovation Council will now work with the six winning teams to see how their prototypes can be made more commercially viable.

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