Three hundred people in Punjab have reportedly died owing to road accidents caused by stray cattle on roads between 2015 and mid-2017. According to the Punjab Gau Sewa Commission, (PGSC) this means that one person died every three days in this manner. This, they said, often harmed or killed the cattle as well.
On reading in the newspapers about a couple who died in such a manner in Punjab one day, a group of fifth graders from Satya Bharti School in Talwara town decided to do something about this situation.
Seeing the red-and-white paint that is applied on trees along roadsides to prevent accidents, the kids had an idea. They could create something ‘shiny’ for cattle to wear around their necks.
Under the mentorship of Harpreet Kaur, the kids became inspired to do this by adopting the simple 4-step formula of ‘Feel-Imagine-Do-Share’ developed by the non-profit Design for Change, which challenges students to solve problems in their communities.
Initially, the group of ten-year-olds – Luxmi, Kirandeep Kaur, Amritpal Singh, Gagandeep Singh and Jashandeep Singh – thought of painting the horns of the cattle. They soon realised, however, that this would be hard. The cows would run away on being approached too closely!
The kids then decided to create rings coated with radium paint that the cattle could be made to wear around their necks.
For this, they first conducted a survey of cows in their area.
Next, realising that they don’t have the money to buy paint, they approached a shop in town that sold number plates for bikes and acquired spare paint from them. They got hold of old steel strings and plastic wire to make necklaces.
For an aesthetic touch, they even added bangles to the necklaces, like lockets on a necklace!
With the help of community members, the kids placed the necklaces (coated in radium paint) around the necks of the cattle in the community. They walked door-to-door to spread the word about their initiative.
Seeing how easily they could now identify animals clearly on the roads at night, some of the community members became inspired to independently create rings for other cattle. The kids now hope to expand the project to other villages and to nearby cities.
The students submitted their project for the the ‘I CAN Awards 2017’ organised by Design for Change and sponsored by Parle-G.
Since 2009, the awards programme has attracted 14,000 stories of change from school children all over India who have followed the Feel-Imagine-Do-Share (FIDS) model of design-thinking to create social change in their communities.
The idea of using glow-in-the-dark solutions to prevent accidents involving cattle has been on the rise in India of late.
In 2016, police in Madhya Pradesh applied glow-in-the-dark reflective bands on the horns of cows. In the same year, in Chennai, an NGO called People for Cattle in India put ‘magic collars’ around cattle and stray dogs in the city.
The kids of Satya Bharti School may have been inspired by such events. There seems to be immense potential to expand such initiatives around the country, perhaps with individual communities, like this inspiring group of children, coming together to do it themselves!
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