Dipankar Das was still in his teens when he decided to ease the hardships of his farmer parents. Born as a labourer’s son in the Andaman Islands, Dipankar regularly watched his parents toil as daily wagers in the fields.
“They always worked in the fields and were involved in activities like carrying heavy materials on their head and using tools for various purposes. The skin on their hands often suffered bruises,” Dipankar, now 22, told The Better India.
The unavoidable task of husk threshing, to separate it from grains, became much more painful with bruised hands. “That is when I started thinking about using different techniques to ease their work.,” Dipankar said.
The youngster says he spent his childhood exploring discarded toys and broken items. “I always had the urge to make something out of scrap by mending it or toying around,” he said.
In 2015 the Dipankar made a solar-powered thresher to reduce their workload and ensure their hands got some rest. The thresher operated without a drop of fossil fuel and can be used to thresh grams, horse grain and pulses. “It also reduced the time and effort required, leaving more spare time for other activities,” Dipankar said.
He has not looked back since.
Simple techniques to ease hardships
“I decided to use some ‘jugaad’ and innovative solutions for all kinds of farming-related tasks. For example, to reduce the pressure on the head and neck when carrying heavy loads, I developed a wired structure with cushions around it. This would transfer weight to the shoulders,” Dipankar said.
When Dipankar saw his mother and other women in the community carry water on their heads, he came up with a wheeled trolley making the task easier. Observing the fisherman’s problem of how to preserve fish from the sea to the market, he devised a deep freezer powered by solar power.
From a pencil holder for children learning to write to a hand-operated blower for chulhas (traditional stoves), Dipankar’s little innovations are everywhere in his community.
Dipankar has also made a solar-powered hand washing system, a long-poled cutter and collector for coconuts and other fruits that are hard to reach, a device to collect mahua flowers from the ground, and a colour-coded thermometer to identify artificially and naturally ripened fruits.
“All the items are made from scrap or used materials. There was never any money to buy items. I worked in food stalls, did labour work with parents from 4 am to 8 am before attending schools, and did odd jobs like masonry to sponsor my education,” Dipankar said.
“We are poor but not hungry. That is what I feel blessed about. I always think of bringing innovative solutions to problems. I believe that innovation is something that can be beneficial in our daily lives,” Dipankar said.
During the Covid-19 lockdown alone, he claims to have come up with 18 innovations.
Bigger plans ahead
“I recently developed an interactive panel for children learning new letters and words associated with it. Making learning interactive increased the joy and willingness to learn,” Dipankar said.
The Andaman local has won various state-level awards including the IGNITE award 2015, a prestigious award given to school children for innovation. Dipankar has now moved to Ahmedabad to study mechanical engineering.
“I am also learning coding, machine learning and to produce smartphone applications,” Dipankar said, adding he aims to integrate the two sciences.
“I wish to complete my studies first, as I am learning a lot and processing many things. Normally people ask children to make parents proud, but I want my parents to feel proud of me and my work in future,” he added.
(Edited by Vinayak Hegde)