Plastic Free IIT Kgp

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Well, now..
This one is something that come to our minds.

If it is that Chandigarh can be plastic free, when not IIT Kharagpur?!
So, well.. that means, that it can be; and we embark on the mission to do so. The approach that we looked at was simple:
- Permanent ban on use of all plastic bags and polythenes etc.
- Availability of alternatives (jute / paper / cloth bags) which would be within the price point of the shop keepers
- A one-time cleaning of the campus of all the plastic that is there, by the form a collection drive.

Kind of simple enough. The institute has put into place a ban of sorts on the place. Some of our work done. We have to ensure that it lasts.
Availability of alternatives 'within the purchasing power of shop keepers' is the main issue. To curtail this cost, we are exploring the area of sponsorship and CSR of companies, where in the company will get their logos on the bags and hence the cost gets subsidized.
A one time cleaning and collection drive is also in place. Rough plans drawn up with the help of the superintendent engineer at the Civil Works and Maintenance Department at IIT Kharagpur.

For supply of the alternatives, we are looking at partnering with NGOs. This will lead to dual benefits, with the NGO generating revenue as well as environmental benefit.

Currently in the phase of implementation, will post progress soon :)


Posted by Johny-walker at 1:59 PM 1 comments  


Friday, February 20, 2009

The Sal business didn't work out. A million reasons. But the end of story is that it didn't. Some mistakes on our part, some cat-fights among the didis, and the whole structure came falling down. We have now set up the Rabindrapalli didis with an agarbatti making business, where they buy raw material for agarbattis from a local guy for Rs. 200/- process it into around 1400 agarbattis and sell them to him for Rs.220/-. 

We plan to sell the Pattal molding machine and return the money to those who invested in this idea. The two sewing machines are with Kajal kaki and Dolly di. They want it and have accepted to pay Rs. 200 /- per month for 18 months. Due to the initial hiccups with the agarbatti business,we haven't been able to collect the money yet. 

Regarding our future plans, we are going to ensure admission of some kids who we've seen working at Chheddis, PD, Eggies,HJB canteen, etc. into Gopali or some other school. We've made a list of these kids. We intend to put up notices, etc asking people to report if they find cases of child labor elsewhere. The yearly expense of enrolling a kid into Gopali is Rs 7200 per year, which is expected to increase to Rs 10000 per year soon. We'll be contacting as many friends as we can to contribute to these expenses.

We will be setting up a database that will contain information about the kids and donors, in order to ensure that future Jagruti members are able to contact them and take updates regularly.

The biggest hurdle with the child labor issue is convincing the child himself/herself and his/her family. I hope we go about it properly.

Posted by Wild Child at 2:27 AM 1 comments  

From bad to worse

Monday, September 15, 2008

Deciding on getting the sal leaf work restarted, we analysed the previous method. We realised that this time we had to be pretty strict with those at the village and set things straight with work targets and the like.

Regarding the sal leaf production, we took few decisions (with the consent of the villagers):
- We also decided to shift from a pay per unit time basis to a pay per unit work basis, as there were people who worked slowly and this was creating discomfort amongst those who were faster at work.
- We decided on a differential pay system. The sewing part was difficult and people didnt want to do it. The moulding was easier. We needed to make the sewing part lucrative. We decided to give 70% of the profit margin per unit work to the sewing person and the rest 30% to the moulding person.
- Targets would be assigned after consulting the person themself, or in a way self imposed targets. Since they were having the freedom to choose the target, they had in a way, undertaken a personal obligation to fulfilling it and the target was not imposed or forced upon.
- Slots of work would be fixed and pre decided. This would avoid all conflicts regarding that issue.
- For once, the cooperative / money lending would stop and we decided to resume it once things got a little more on track.

Then, we realised that what we were considering as the difficult part was way easier than what was to come. The tough was yet to come!
The next step was to get the leaves and get them delivered at the village, so work would start. And, well.. there were no leaves. No leaves at all. Be it kharagpur, or gol b, or 30 km from kharagpur or kolkata! And, we had promised the villagers and given them all the tempo that work has to start as soon as possible.

Posted by Johny-walker at 3:50 AM 2 comments  

The coming back.. and a new start

July came, and we returned to IIT Kharagpur from our long break. A meeting with Sharmaji told us that things were really not good, and that work had completely stopped. The raw material that was there was rotting. It seemed by his talks, that it will really be difficult to get them together and working again.

We all decided to get down to task and get things restarted. It was me, hakay, bania, pandey, pari and kanika who went down to the village. We went from one house to the other. Spoke to each one of them individually, and heard from them personally how they no longer wanted to work together with each other. There were issues reagarding work slotsWe learnt that they had shifted the equipment / machines from their home to a rented room near by.

Moreover, the cooperative that was there, and the money that they used to deposit each week had been stopped. The prime reason was that they felt that there money was just lying there, and might get squandered off. Also, once even a small amount got collected, they wanted it back as they now considered it an asset.

We were in no mood to let the thing fall apart. There were a few who still wanted to work and get thigns along in the village. We decided to work just with them for the time and worked on two path ways. One, immideate steps to be taken so that things get started. The sal leaf plate had to restart. Second, the sal leaf was a venture that would have been successful only if there was volume and that seemed difficult now with lesser man power - we needed something new.

Posted by Johny-walker at 3:13 AM 0 comments  

Signs of concern

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The month of April was a big concern for us. May, June and July would be crucial months and very few of us would be here. We had to some way ensure that the work continued, even in our absence. We had to ensure that there motivation level doesn't fall.
Villages around IIT Kharagpur had a notion that these students come, and then they go for a 3 month vacation and never come back. We were not going to do that. Sharmaji, one of our foremost advisers, took on the responsibility during these three months. He ensured that he went to Ravindra Palli from time to time, and see that the work continues.

As May, June progressed, we became aware of how tough it was to keep these people knit together. We had over time, with our constant talks, ensured that they remained together. However, in our absence, the social differences became evidently visible. They had more or less stopped working. There were ego clashes. Initially, they gave odd reasons, of timings, blamed one another and complained of the machinery / equipment, lack of training; but on availability of these as well, the situation remained the same. Sharmaji took someone to train them more, so that work gets started as soon as possible. However, things made little progress.

We saw things that we term as practical problems on the field. We got a feeling as if their personal differences were so high, that they were ready to give up financial upliftment and live in the same conditions as now, but not get together. We realized as to how long these people had been living in such conditions that now they are accustomed to it, its there normal way of life.

Posted by Johny-walker at 11:36 PM 0 comments  

Clipped Wings

Thursday, April 3, 2008

She looked out of the window. She saw the iron pole, rusted to the core, with a tiny bulb perched at the top and blinking against its wishes. A little girl was sleeping by the side of the pole over a torn blanket. With the dawn the vendors would soon be occupying the barren streets and the dead, dusty roadways would once again be revived. The town would go alive with the tinkles of the bells and the noises of people selling bananas and oranges and second hand clothes and synthetic ties at the price of silk. This chaos would help her live another day in confinement when she would just be a spectator to the general drama staged in the playground of this earth. She looked far into the distance and saw the sun rising from the dust. The sun was always the first victim of the miseries and tortures of this world. He had to be the first to wake up and then the barrenness of the streets made him blush. He went redder as he saw the beauty of the forests and the lakes and the birds in all its nakedness. This was the time when the masks were off and people and all things alive never bothered to hide their sins under the covers of fancy cars and expensive perfumes and the roue's forgot to conceal their drunkenness under the cover of sobriety.

This stark magnificence made him swirl and he went dizzy spiraling his way to the top. She had been leaning by the windowsill for a long time and suddenly a current of pain passed through her body. She thought it was probably because of the position she had been standing in that caused this swift pain. But she realized it was actually her soul that was aching. A terrible feeling got over her and she was scared. The fear was of the soul and of her existence. She wanted nothing from this world and she did not want to be born again.

She looked out of the window again and now the balloons were coloring the skies, the apples and the papayas were in their place, the men could be seen striving to earn their daily bread and the women were getting their children ready for school. The traffic had been let out. Cycles, scooters and cars were competing with the pedestrians and there was tremendous haste in the air. Airplanes could be heard leaving the air base every three minutes and as they flew, they trailed a blaze on the blank skies.

She looked around for the little baby that she had seen sleeping by the pole in the morning. But she could not find her. She remembered that this was how she had lost herself and she never came to know when. She looked far back in time and started searching for her lost self. But this had always been a futile attempt. The small girl that never wept even when she broke her foot or when she was alone at home or when she didn’t get the toy she wanted was dead. The laughter of the soul and the twinkling eyes had given way to a miserable spirit and moist eyes. She tried smiling but couldn’t. The little girl was lost and would never be found now. And she was determined that she would not be born again, so there was no way she would ever find her.

She turned around and faced the blank wall opposite the window. There was a wooden door on the wall on the left. She thought she would break her vow and let herself out of incarceration. The thought filled her with a joy unknown and she thought she had solved the mystery of the lost girl. She immediately combed her hair, sprinkled a few drops of water on her eyes and wrapped herself in her coarse, black shawl. She was finally prepared to be a part of that group waiting for her downstairs. She decided she would buy red earrings to match her skirt. She also thought she would buy those bright lemons and squeeze them into a glassful of water to make herself a lemonade. Today she would go and meet him who had often mesmerized her and left her heart aching.

She rushed to the door and turned the knob with a jerk. But before it could turn and before the door could open, she saw those words scribbled on the door. Somebody who had lived in this room before her had engraved those letters, it seemed with a nail. She stood reading those words. And time that had passed so quickly in her ecstasy came to a standstill. She touched that inscription with her pallid finger. And she smiled. This smile was different.

She unwrapped herself. She straightened her braided hair and walked back to the window. She stood leaning at the wooden windowsill and looked out of the void. She saw the sun red again, now preparing to go back to the dust from where it came. But he was not blushing now. It was the crimson of the eye that had wept, the red of the bleeding heart, the scarlet of the bruised skin. He seemed hurt and hopeless. The sky was dark and there were no stars. There was nothing. There was emptiness and the aching soul. She stood there waiting and she knew she would not be born again.

This story has been written by Ms. Shweta Gupta, Sub-Editor and Marketing Executive with DLA AM, an English Daily published from Agra. Shweta also shares our vision of reforming the social structure of India and is contributing significantly by penning down and subsequently publishing several articles on issues that need immediate action.

Posted by TS at 7:49 AM 1 comments  

Wanna contribute ?

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Diksha is a Kolkata-based NGO established in 1999 and is working for the women and their children involved in "flesh-trade". They have their registered office at Salimpur, Dhakuria, Kolkata and they are currently working in three localities namely, Kalighat, Kidderpore and Baruipore in Kolkata. There are 8 full-time workers in Diksha and their work includes:

1) Rehabilitation of prostitutes.
2) Providing safety to their children who are vulnerable to the same trade.
3) Imparting education and vocational training to older ladies and children.
4) Spreading awareness about sexually transmitted diseases.
5) Creating alternate source of income for the women.

Further details of their work can be sought by mailing to the given email id : or by contacting Mr. Mrityunjoy Gharami through email. His email id is If you want his ph. no. then drop a mail to

How can you help?

1) By lending financial support.
2) Technical support: creating a website, its maintenance and hosting related issues.
3) If you are an Event Management Group you can help Diksha by letting the children perform a skit or a musical show during your event.
4) If you are a resident of Kolkata you can join Diksha people to carry out their projects.
5) Making others know about Diksha.

Posted by TS at 7:32 AM 0 comments  

A Triumph Against Usury

Monday, March 31, 2008

One of the gravest issues haunting the social structure of rural India is the exorbitant rates of interest on loans lent to poor people by local money lenders (mahajans). The interest rate can be as high as 120% per anum which is more than 10 times of what is being charged by the banks. Think of a rickshaw-puller who earns Rs. 2000 per month and has to pay back Rs 500 per month as interst on a loan amount of Rs 5000 which he had taken for a surgery. We are really feeling a sense of accomplishment by having established a proper machinery of credit among our Jagruti ladies.

As it was discussed earlier, each of the ladies will have to come to attend a weekly meeting every Sunday at 3.30 PM irrespective of the presence of any student representative from IIT. In each meeting everybody has to deposit Rs 5 towards a common pool which is meant for meeting the monetary needs of the members in case of any exigencies. If a lady comes late or fails to attend the meeting without giving a prior information then she will have to pay Rs. 2 as fine. This idea was being implemented since last three meetings of the ladies and the money thus pooled got its first beneficiary within a month of the conceptualization of the idea.

Dolly didi is one of the members of Jagruti. Since last 10 days her husband is hospitalised due to some serious illness. As he is the only bread-winner of the family (he is a rickshaw-puller in IIT campus) so Dolly didi had no other option but to seek credit from somewhere. Now, this time instead of going to any local moneylender she asked for a loan from the Jagruti fund. As all the other members of the group were well acquainted of the illness of her husband everybody readily agreed to lend her Rs 200 from the fund. For the first time Dolly didi did not require to knock on the doors of any money lender to lend her money and that too on an usurious rate.

It was later decided that in case of similar emergencies all the group members are entitled to take a loan not exceeding Rs. 1000 for a period of 3 months and the interest rate would be Rs 2 per hundred per month (in the language of rural people) or 24% per anum. The interest has to be paid each month and the principal amount can be paid back in installments.

Though I know it will be very difficult to uproot the evils of unorganised and unregulated money lending mechanism in rural India but I can definitely say that slowly but surely Jagruti will be able to accomplish this as well.

Posted by TS at 10:02 AM 1 comments  

A word of appreciation

Saturday, March 29, 2008

The JAGRUTI team extends its sincere thanks to Prof. Goutam Saha ( Dept. of Electronics and Electrical Communication Engineering, IIT Kharagpur) for appreciating our endeavors through the medium of an article in his blog.
Thank you sir.

Posted by TS at 10:41 PM 0 comments  

All initiatives coming together under one platform

So, as per the plan we had a seminar cum faculty-student interaction session on 25th of March in S N Bose Auditorium. Thanks to all my team mates who did a wonderful job in promoting and organizing the event. The wonderful logo and poster was designed by Reshmi (have a look below on the previous article to get a glimpse of that poster). Jyoti, Vertika, Kanika, Indira,Ujjwal and Vikram did an excellent job by publicising the event among the faculty members and students. Hats off to Ujjwal who conceptualised such a marvellous video and that too within an hour. In spite of this commendable effort by each one of us we could not attract more than 50 people to the session. We also had a few faculty members in the audience whose presence encouraged us a lot.

The event started with a welcome note by Reshmi followed by a presentation by myself. We had a spell-bound audience when the video was being played just after the presentation. It touched the heart of everyone present in the audience. We then invited one member of each of the other such initiatives to brief the audience about the projects they had undertaken. Manish from SAMBHAV, Kunal from Gopali Youth Welfare Society (GYWS) and Narsimha from KADAM IIT Kharagpur presented their projects before the audience. The dias was then handed over to Ms. Yuveka Singh who is working with Praajak, a Kolkata based NGO, to introduce Praajak to the audience and brief them about the association of her organization with IIT Kharagpur.

After this we had an interaction session between faculty members and students. The agenda of the discussion was to formulate a mechanism to integrate all such social initiatives being carried out by students of IIT Kharagpur under one umbrella to have a greater impact. It was where a dream of having "Technology Social Initiative" within our campus got a ground of reality. I am grateful to all the faculty members, and Prof Goutam Saha (EECE) in particular, who blessed us with their invaluable guidance. Our student friends who took the pain of coming to the session came up with wonderful suggestions and feedback. Thanks to them as well.

Despite the fact that we had a poor turn out, we were quite satisfied after the session was over as we achieved what we intended to. We wanted to introduce these initiatives to each other so that if not now but in future they would join hands and make a noticeable impact. Apart from this we got some 20 names (including faculty members) who were willing to contribute in all forms to various of our projects. Now is it not a true JAGRUTI?

Posted by TS at 10:01 PM 0 comments  


Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Posted by TS at 9:40 PM 1 comments  

Join us on 25th March, 6PM at SN Bose

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Jagruti: A Social Initiative by Students of IIT Kharagpur

"they say that charity begins at home. What we are doing is not charity, but Kharagpur is definitely our home."

60 yrs of Independence and what have we to show for it? Whenever it is 15th August or 26th January, newspapers make such a fuss over this question and then within no time forget about it. In the year 2000, United Nations came up with a set of goals called the Millennium Goals. One of these goals was to reduce poverty by fifty percent till 2015. Well, half that time has already elapsed, and we seem to be nowhere near the goal. Our neighbor Bangladesh, on the other hand, is right on track. As perfectly put by Prof. C K Prahlad of University of Michigan “Why is it that with all our technology, managerial know-how, and investment capacity, we are unable to make even a minor contribution to the problem of pervasive global poverty and disenfranchisement?”

Why such initiative and Why in IIT Kharagpur?

As IITians, we have a bigger loan to pay off to our country because we enjoy more subsidies and better resources from tax payers' money. We are a highly educated and technologically sound community, with intelligent students and learned professors. We have an influential and very affluent alumni base. As such, we are perfectly positioned to turn around the face of, at least, rural Bengal. However, the benefits of education are not crossing the boundary of our campus; and where IIT Kharagpur should have been the epicenter of a huge social revolution; we are still just another college, another IIT.

Current scenario

There are at least nine social initiatives currently operating in Kharagpur under various names. However there is not much awareness about any of them in the Campus. While many people might be willing to help out with such projects, often they don't come into contact with the right people at the right time. As a result, most initiatives die out in the initial phases due to lack of work-force and excessive load placed on a few people.

What we can do

We need an organized platform where such groups can come together and make keener efforts towards a well defined goal. We need to combine innovation and technology to come up with specialized solutions for local problems. For this we need interested and dedicated people, with the required know-how. In campus the student's schedule is generally packed with academics and various other responsibilities. Thus we need an arrangement and understanding within the student community so that everyone can contribute; more importantly, contribute according to their capacities and choices. Some might prefer one-on-one interaction, while others may prefer group activities. Similarly, different people will want different levels of involvement. Only with proper arrangement and a single platform such a system can be achieved.

Our vision

If Prof. Yunus at Chittagong University could do it for Bangladesh, why can’t we for India? A few years down the line, we hope that the entire region around IIT Kharagpur will be home to more economically sound households. We aspire for better educational, employment, medical and vocational facilities for the people. We hope for a more involved community, where today's beneficiaries will be tomorrow's benefactors. We want that this initiative sparks a series of such initiatives in various other temples of higher education in our country so that these centers for excellence become the pioneers in ameliorating the condition of billions at the bottom of the pyramid.


Join Us at:

Venue: SN Bose
Date: 25th March
Time: 6 PM

Posted by Himanshu at 8:22 AM 0 comments  

Porapara again

Thursday, March 20, 2008

On 3rd March, as was discussed earlier, we went to Porapara again but this time with an objective of studying the source of raw material required for our business. Ujjwal, Himanshu, Sharma ji, Kanika and myself reached the village around 3 PM. After a search of half an hour we could locate the particular households whose members were involved in sal-leaves plate business. We talked to them, mainly ladies, at length and came to know that that was a wrong time of the year to look for the raw materials. Every year during late February and early April the Sal trees shed their leaves and hence the quality of the leaves deteriorate consequently leading to a rise in the price of the sal-leave plates. The current rate of the plates were 12-13 paise per plate. That was within our estimated cost analysis but still the profit margin was getting reduced considerably. We also learnt that the cost reduces to a minimum of 8 paise per plate as opposed to 6 paise mentioned by Mr. Bhattacharya. Here we learnt a lesson again. We should not accept anything only on the basis of its face value. We should dive deep to get the real picture.

We then moved to meet the group of women who were already doing what we intended to establish with our set of Ravindra Palli ladies. This group was formed by another such student group of IIT Kharagpur. We met the ladies and discussed the reasons due to which they had to discontinue the activity. We came to know that the group comprised of wives of the farmers whose primary source of bread was cultivation. So the reasons which we could make out were:

1) The sal-leave plate business was secondary source of income. So they were not putting their heart and soul behind it.
2) Due to less volume of production the per head profit margin was not significant.
3) Frequent disputes among the ladies and poor attendance during the production.

On top of all these we learnt that the variation in the cost of the end product that is the molded sal-leave plate did not vary proportionally to the cost of raw material. The average selling price of a molded sal-leave plate varied from 32-35 paise per plate as opposed to 30-60 paise according to our cost analysis. But, this was only in the local market. On further research we came to know that the returns are much higher if the end-product is sold in south India. Though the market in south India was appearing quite lucrative but we could not target that market at the very beginning. So, the things were getting clear.

* The profit margin is not so high due to existing system of production.
* The profit maximization is dependent on volume of production.
* Discontinuity in production is disastrous.
* A mechanism is required to ensure coherence in the group.
* We will have to modify the current system of production to reduce the input cost.
* We will have to look for alternate raw materials apart from sal-leaves, other leaves or for that matter, paper!!!

Posted by TS at 10:09 AM 0 comments  

The First Trip to Porapara

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The midsems had just gone over and we were again geared up to get back to the work we had started. Our next step was to study the market from where the raw material would have to be procured for our new business. From the research we had done and the information provided by Mr. Bhattacharya we came to know that Kharagpur had got abundant source of sal-leave plates. The tribals (Mahato)residing in the remote villages of Kharagpur and adjoining Bankura are involved in this business. The nearest such village is Pora Para. This village is some 11 Kms from IIT campus.

It was the evening of 29th February when I got a call from Pranidhi (one of the contributors). She wanted to have an idea of the activities we had undertaken by visiting the sites personally. Since she has invested her money in the business it was her right to inquire about the ventures we were putting her money into (though she never intended to do this [:P]). On March 1st, she along with her friend Shruti came to IIT campus. We took them straight to Ravindra Palli where they analysed the prospects of our association with those 20 ladies. We utilized their presence for handing over the first profit earned by Jagruti group and both of them ,i must say, were really thrilled to be the ceremonial chief guests.

After the meeting was over we decided to visit Porapara village. We had two objectives behind this visit. The first was to distribute some clothing collected by us among the leprosy patients of one leprosy hospital run by Missionaries of Charity in the same village and second was to have a look on the availability and abundance of the raw material for our new business. I must thank Mr. K K Sharma, one of our well-wishers, who arranged a cab for the visit. His dedication towards social cause is really appreciable.

As mentioned earlier, this village was some 11 Km from our IIT campus. Pranidhi, Shruti, Indira, Vertika, Himanshu, Ujjwal, Sharma ji and myself reached the leprosy hospital around 3.30 PM. The serenity of the ambiance was peculiar in itself. We were greeted by an old man who surprised us with his fluent English. He then introduced us to the Brother who was the in-charge of the hospital. The kind of glow that appeared on the faces of the people residing in that hospital campus after seeing we people filled us with immense sense of accomplishing something great. After a brief introduction we went straight to meet the patients. Firstly, we met the female patients. The wards were neat and clean and every care was made to make those patients feel at home. We were astonished to know that those people had been abandoned by their family and to no one's surprise they were not willing to go back any more and wanted to stay there for ever. We then visited the prayer hall of the Hospital and subsequently the male ward. The duskiness prevailing in the ward at 4 in the afternoon was taking us by surprise. When we asked the Brother why he had not switch on the lights the reply was really appalling. He said that the hospital had got no electricity supply. They had been deprived of electricity supply since the hospital came into being. The reason as stated by the Brother was the hostile attitude of the neighboring villagers who did not let the WB State Electricity Board to install transformers on the land coming under their possession. The hospital had to install two 25KW generators to meet the power requirements which functioned only between 6 to 10 PM during the night. We were finding it really difficult to imagine a situation in which we had to spend the night in the hot and humid climate of Kharagpur without a fan running above our beds and mosquitoes entertaining us though out.
Anyways, we had now to come up with a solution. I am open to be criticised and advised. Please leave a comment if you have an idea how to solve this problem.

a) Try to persuade the villagers to give a piece of land along their campus boundaries. But I think that this may have been tried earlier as well. Shall we give it a try again?

b) File an RTI on the behalf of the hospital questioning WBSEB about the reasons why it has failed to supply electricity to the hospital when there is absolutely no problem regarding the penetration of it in the nearby villages.

c) Install a dual-mode gassifier which runs on bio-mass which is available in plenty in and around the hospital. This gassifier also has a provision of diesel run generator in case there is shortage of biomass.

It was 5.30 in the evening already and Pranidhi and Shruti had to catch a train back to Kolkata so we had to drop our plan of finding the sources of raw material for our business. While returning to the campus we stopped by the house of one of the PANCHAs to discuss the issue but unfortunately he was not there that time.

On the journey back to campus I was brooding over the very nature of problems existing in rural India. I had come to Pora Para with altogether different objective and while returning back I have added one more issue to be paid attention to immediately.

Posted by TS at 5:49 AM 2 comments  

Pradan: Professional Assistance for Development Action

Friday, March 7, 2008

Still excited and tired of my journey to 'Balrampur' (Barabhum railway station) to visit and see operations of self help group of PRADAN. Visit was most satisfying and encouraging opposite to what I expected. I was exposed to one of the most professional systems at grass root level and more importantly I witnessed effect of ideas on human life. Only then I could appreciate the value of money and water.

So many a times we were asked and told that enter this sector of development (I like this word rather then calling it social service), later in your life when you are successful and rich (may be). Sounds logical but then wouldn't I miss all of their hardwork and trust? Where will I get the satisfaction of helping thousands of family to get 12 months of food supply? Where else will I notice their faces beaming with confidence? How will I realize the hardships and value of human life?

Ok fine cut the lecture, let's focus on what we learned. Basic thing is that many of misconceptions were broken.
1) Social service sector rather development sector does have professional career path and learning curve.
2) To solve some problem you need to understand it first thus we need people on grass root who are educated and trained.
3) This sector is not about leaving everything behind but just like any other job you need to make certain compromises.
4) Surely this is one of the most satisfying job.
5) Technology and innovation are key to tackle poverty.
6) Human spirit is immense.
7) Education doesn't make you intelligent just provide you with information.
8) Rural India is beautiful :D

To be continued...

Posted by Himanshu at 12:09 AM 0 comments  

A Request

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Its a request to all the visitors to this blog that kindly leave a comment as to what do you feel about this initiative. You may have a prior experience in this field so please do share your experience with us. Your suggestions and guidance together with our efforts may change the lives of these families.
If you are interested to contibute in any form then please let us know.


Posted by TS at 4:39 AM 4 comments  

What are we waiting for?

Our mid-semester exams to get over.

Posted by TS at 4:35 AM 0 comments  

Our Contributors

Monday, February 25, 2008

Ayush Mathur is working as Assistant Manager, ITC, India Tobacco Division, Saharanpur.
He is an alumnus of IIT Kharagpur and has graduated with a major in Mechanical Engineering in 2007.
He is the first person to offer an interest-free loan of Rs. 5000 to Jagruti for a period of 6 months.

Abhishek Kumar is working as a Field Engineer, Schlumberger and is currently placed in Egypt. He is an alumnus of Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad and has graduated with a major in Petroleum Engineering in 2007. He has also offered an interest-free loan of Rs 5000 to Jagruti for a period of 6 months.

Himanshu Sharma is pursuing a Dual Degree course in the Dept. of Biotechnology at IIT Kharagpur. He is currently in his final year. He has offered an interest-free loan of Rs 2000 to Jagruti for a period of 6 months.

Ravish Kumar is working with Deutsche Bank, Mumbai. He graduated with a major in Electronics and Electrical Communication Engineering from IIT Kharagpur in 2006. Ravish also offered an interest-free loan of Rs 5000 to Jagruti for a period of 6 months.

Pranidhi Prabhat is working as Application Consultant with IBM, Kolkata. She is also a Volunteer of Praajak, a Kolkata-based NGO. She has graduated from Birla Institute of Technology, Mesra, Ranchi with a major in Mechanical Engineering in 2006. Pranidhi has offered an interest-free loan of Rs 2000 to Jagruti for a period of 6 months.

With support of one of our well wisher and friend, who also offered an interest-free loan of Rs 3000 to Jagruti for a period of 6 months, we have now reached our target of raising 20K. We will soon inform you with our progress. Keep checking the space.

Posted by TS at 10:54 AM 0 comments  

The Business Plan

Project Title: Establishment of a sal-leaf-plate manufacturing unit for the Jagruti-Mahila Gramodyog Samiti, Ravindrapalli, Kharagpur.

Location of the unit: In three different houses of the village.(Rotation basis)

Estimated set-up cost : Rs. 20,000.00

Estimated cost (INR)
Molding Machine
12 inch die
Sewing Machine
Initial Raw Material+ Transportation +Misc
Grand Total


Process to be followed: Two sal leave-plates are paired up and stiched together in a sewing machine. The stiched plate is then molded under the hot molding die. The fuel comprises of wood ,twigs, leaves etc. and are used to heat the die up which helps in molding. We can press 5 plates (i.e 10 sal-leave plates) together in the molding machine. But the quality of some of the plates may not be good. For this we reprocess those plates whose quality are not good when the day's work is over and the machine is left for cooling. Sometimes the plate which is facing the die gets blackened due to excessive heat. So this has to be taken care off.

Funding: Funds would be raised as micro loans from our closely connected friends for a period of 6 months. We would have to pay the loan back by September 2008.

Cost Analysis:

Cost of one raw plate : 6-15 paise (seasonal variation)
Fuel Cost: 3-4 paise per finished plate.
Total cost of production for one plate : 15-35 paise.

Selling price of each plate: 30-60 paise.
Profit per plate: 15-25 paise.

Lets say that the machine runs for 4 hours daily
and it has a production rate of 400 plates/hour
Jagruti consists of 20 women

So total number of plates produced in a month = 4*400*30 = 48000
So net profit per month = 48000*15/100=7200.00 (this is the minimum profit)
Per head profit per month = 7200/20 = Rs. 360
Maximum total profit per month= 48000*25/100 = Rs.12000.00
Per head profit per month in that case = 12000.00/20 = Rs. 600.00

It is to be noted that we are using the machine for only 4 hours each day which can be increased and hence the production will rise.

Now lets say that we are going to take Rs 200 from each of the 20 women per month towards repayment of the loan.
Per Month repayment amount = Rs. 200* 20 = Rs. 4000.00
So we need 5 months to recover the loan amount.

Posted by TS at 10:45 AM 1 comments  

Changing Business

Whenever someone asks me what am I doing in this Jagruti initiative I tend to say that I am making mistakes and trying to learn from them. This indeed is the most appropriate answer I could think of. We never thought of ending up establishing a so-called Self Help Group in such less time. I think all iniatives of this kind do not take time more than what we took but the real challenge lies ahead and that is what next?

After supplying the first lot of pickles to our ready-market we had set the ball rolling but very soon we realized that the surface on which we rolled the ball was having enough friction to stop its motion. The first challenge was to make this business economically viable. Pickle manufacturing depends hugely on the availability of the raw material. During our several trips to the local mandis we came to know that both chillies and lemons (the major ingredients of Jagruti achaar) were brought from South India and as the winter season is almost over so their prices have also gone up apart from having irregular supplies. This made our job more difficult. When we sat with our spreadsheets and tried to figure out the average cost of production for these achaar we were shocked to see dismaying figures. The profit margin per unit cost of production was too less to be called economically viable for the group. Initially we had assumed that the market we are targeting had enough potential to sustain the business of Jagruti achaar but we were terribly wrong. We had targeted mess of all the residential halls within the campus. The demand in a 300 capacity mess is around 20 Kg per month. Considering 17 halls in the campus with roughly this capacity and assuming we get Rs 10 per Kg as profit we ended with Rs 170 per head profit per month. Apart from this the selling price of the pickle manufactured by Jagruti was two and a half times more than that available in the market. I do admit that Jagruti intended to produce different varieties of achaar but to be honest that could not have convinced the mess authorities to purchase achaar at such a high rate. We could not think of selling Jagruti pickle in the markets outside our campus as we knew we were not going to survive. So here we learnt from our mistake. "Do proper analysis of capital, resources and market before foraying into any venture". Sustainabilty was the need of the hour and once again we started using our mental faculty to look out for possible alternatives.

For quite some time we have been coming across the fact that there are a few faculty members who are interested in these kind of initiatives and most importantly they have a prior experience of the same. This was the perfect occasion to meet a few of them and seek their guidance. Here I must mention the names of Prof. D. Lahiri and Prof. S.C. Mohapatra of Rural Development Center for their valuable guidelines. When asked about alternatives Prof. Lahiri suggested to go for processing of spices, ornamental fish culturing, rose oil extraction, honey bee culturing etc. We shared his thoughts with Prof. Mohapatra who showed the designs of several machines he had fabricated for these kind of rural activities. He told us that the spice processing machine is under construction and referred us to Mr. Bhattacharya who owns a company which produces those machines and who also happens to be an alumnus of our institute. We were quite excited to come to know about him and decided to meet him the next day.

Next day myself and Himanshu went to meet him in his factory cum residence. He is some 50-55 years old guy and is managing a production line called Premiere Magneto just outside IIT campus. We inquired about the various machines being produced in his manufacturing unit when he told us about a SAAL-LEAVE-PLATE Manufacturing machine. It comprised of one sewing and one molding machine. The total cost of the machine was coming around 17000 Rupees. We found the new business quite exciting as he also mentioned that the product had got a huge demand in the market and it had also got 100 percent profit margin. As the operation of the machine required no professional training so it was best suited for our Jagruti ladies. Apart from this he also assured to get us connected with the suppliers of raw-material and the target market. From our research we came to know that Kharagpur has got no dearth of Saal leaves so we started giving it a serious thought. We discussed this thing in our group and in that meeting we came to know about a group of students who had already tried their hands in this business but in some other location. We decided to take their guidance in this regard. After talking to that group of students regarding pros of cons of this business we decided to go for it finally.

Now the major task at hand was to raise the funds. We had four options in front of us:

a) Bank Loan
b) Micro-Credit Loan
c) Taking a loan from Prof. G S Sanyal whose micro-credit scheme promotes these small scale business.
d) Use the "trust colateral" of our friends.

I was not surprised at all when each of the group member chose the option "d". Then began the rounds of talking within our closly knit friend circle . We knew gathering 20K is not a Herculean task as all our friends are well placed in influential and highly rewarded positions in various MNCs. Till Now 4 of our friends have assured a 6 month interest-free loans amounting to Rs 17000. Jagruti will ever be grateful for this generous cooperation of our friends. With their confidence in us and our unrelenting motivation I am sure we will definitely be able to show our new endeavor, the light of the day.

Posted by TS at 9:03 AM 6 comments  

The First Endeavor

There was this feeling of guilt within which was compelling me to do something for those rickshaw-pullers who were defaulting the payments. Thanks to Prof. Md. Yunus of Bangladesh whose book "Banker to the poor" gave me a new direction. In his book Prof. Yunus has talked about employment generation through Micro-credit in rural areas. The commendable work he has done requires no description and it has got manifested in form of the successful Grameen Bank of Bangladesh which ultimately fetched him the Nobel Peace Prize. I knew that problem lies with the level of income and it has to be increased. I also knew that I would have to target women in order to increase the chances of sustainabilty of any business model.

Placement season was over for we 8 final year students and hence "Empty mind devil's workshop" was getting substantiated. I was coming back to my hall when I saw the same Tapan daa. I stopped him for having a word when I came to know that the defaulter rate has gone up to 75%. I was shocked to know this. I knew it was high time to ask the women members of the family to take charge of savings. As my field of work is in Bengal so I needed bengali speaking students in order to have a better communication with the ladies. One fine afternoon I called Reshmi Ghosh (4th year IE) and Indira Ghosh (4th year OENA), both bengali-speaking final year students to come along for attending a meeting with the wives of those rickshaw-pullers. I also called Himanshu S Sharma (5th year Physics), Vikramaditya Gulati (5th year MI) and Ujjwal Jain (5th year EECE ) (all along with myself are volunteers with Praajak, a Kolkata based NGO), to accompany me. The agenda of the meeting was to convince the ladies to start investing again in those Post Office Schemes but the result which came out was totally different. We had a 2-hour long meeting in which we discussed about several businesses which could enhance their income level. The one which was accepted by everyone was pickle manufacturing, since it required minimum investment. After the meeting we students sat together and discussed the ways to go about it. We decided to go for lemon pickle and targeted our mess as markets. Meanwhile, we also needed to check the coherence among the group members. For this we gave them a task of preparing Neembu ka achaar with 100 lemons. We procured the ingredients from the market and handed over to the group. On a pre-determined date we asked them to prepare the achaar in front of us. The motive behind this was to study the dynamics of the group. It was this day that we gave a name to the group and that was JAGRUTI. As the days went by we put all our efforts to get the group united because for them to succeed it was very necessary that they stuck together. Initially, a few of them did not even want to go to a particular member's house. In fact there were two relatives in this group but one of them did not even go to the other's house. It was very difficult for us to digest this kind of a behaviour of the ladies. Thanks to all my colleagues who put their heart and soul in getting the group dynamics right by various initiatives. By this time Jyoti Agarwal (5th year AgFE) and Vertika Singh (5th year EE) had also joined the group.

After achieving this our next task was to get a trainer cum mentor who would train our Jagruti samiti. For this we contacted the wife of the Dean of Students' Affairs, Mrs. Tripathi to help us in training the women. She gladly accepted our request and took all pains to come down to the village for training the ladies. It was decided that we would be going for Mircha ka achaar. We contacted local wholesellers for spices and the mandi for the chillies. Everything was finalised, the procurement planning, pricing and supply and distribution planning when the fortune took its first test. The day we had kept for the manufacturing turned out to be a bad one for us. We could not procure chillies that day as they were unavailable in entire Bengal. We could not fetch lemon either which was our back-up plan. I would like to appreciate the decision taking capabilities of Himanshu and Kanika (4th year IEM. She joined the group after the first meeting) who decided to get Baer for the same purpose. Initially I thought we are taking decisions hastily but later it turned out to be a good one. We prepared some 8 Kg of Baer Ka Achaar that day. Each memeber of the group participated actively. To our surprise for the very first time we did not require to call each one of them from their homes. After the achaar was prepared we supplied the same to Sarojini Naidu hall and Nehru Hall in our campus. We generated a revenue of Rs 560 by selling the achaar which was the first milestone in our journey. Though the sum is paltry but I know the start has been made and may god give us enough motivation to keep JAGRUTI alive.

Posted by TS at 1:30 AM 2 comments  

The Genesis

Sunday, February 24, 2008

It all started with a challenge thrown by Prof. G. S. Sanyal, Ex-Director, Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur to we students to convince atleast two rickshaw pullers of IIT campus for investing in anyone of the schemes available with the post office. The challenge showed us a ray of hope of doing something which had the potential of breaking the monotony of the Autumn Semester. Without wasting a single moment we headed straight to our target destination "the Frust Corner" (any KGPian reading this post will take 2.3 nano seconds to recognize this place, for those who are taking more, Frust Corner is the junction point of Scholars' Avenue and the road which takes you to the PAN loop). I dont know whether this has been a trend but I have invariably found a rickshaw-stand there at Frust Corner. So, we approached a rickshaw-puller named Tapan Dey. I am presenting a part of the conversation with Tapan daa below:

WE: Dada aapka naam kya hai?
TD: Tapan Dey.

WE: Kahan rehte hain?
TD: Ravindra palii, ye to Nehru Hall ke peechey jo tower hai, wahin mera tina ka makan hai.

WE: Ghar mein kaun kaun hai?
TD: main, mera aurat aur do tho bachcha log.

WE: bachcha log padhta hai?
TD: haan dono Hijli School mein padhta hai.

WE: bachcha log ke bhawishya ke baare mein kuch socha hai?
TD: haan babu...padhane ka mann hai...paisa hoga to padhayega nahi to dekhega kuch karega...

WE: Achcha...aap daaru peete hain???
TD: (Reluctantly)..nahi babu...jyada nahi...
(we then knew this was a bad question to ask and hence changed the topic)

WE: To bachchalog ke liye kuch paisa bachake rakha hai?
TD: nahi babu kya bachahyega...din ka 50-60 rupya hota hai...kabhi kabhi to 20 rupya hi ho pata hai aur chutti ke samay to wo bhi mushkil hota hai. uspe rickshaw ka kiraya dena hota hai 15 rupya daily ka...kahan se paisa bachayega...

WE: Oh!!! to humlog ek tareeka batayenge paisa jama karne ka to aap karenge?
TD: kahan babu, hum padha likha nahi hai ...kahan se kar paayega?

WE: Aapko kuch likha-padhi karne ka zaroorat nahi hai...humlog aapka paisa Post Office mein jama kara denge. Kagaz-pattar ke liye agent ko bulayenge woh aapka sab kaam kar dega..aapke paas se paisa bhi le jaayega. aur bahi khata (pass-book) bhi dega. Isse aapko pata chalega ki aapka kitna paisa jama hua hai.
(TD was by then joined by other rickshaw-pullers who found the converstation interesting)

TD: to dada humko kya karna padega?

WE: aapko mahina mein 100 rupya jama karna hai...karnege??
TD (takes time to think): !!!!!!!

WE: arey dekhiye ...apko din ka 4 rupya jama karke ek jagah rakhna hai...din ka 4 rupya jama kar paaynege???
TD: haan babu...kar lenge

WE: badhiya...aisa karte karte mahina mein 120 rupya ho jaayega...hai na...fir Post Office wala agent se mila denge..wo aapka paisa jama kar aayega...aisa teen saal tak karna hoga thik hai???
(I intentionally didnt tell them about the fines for defaulting the installments fearing it would act as an deterrent)
TD: par babu...hum to padha nahi hai...hum kaise karega???

WE: Aapko uska chinta nahi karna hai...Form humlog bhar denge aapko sirf sign karna hoga...sign karna jaante hain to???
TD(proudly): haan dada jaante hain.

WE: to bachcha log ke liye kuch karna hai na...unka future ke liye...unlog ko bada aadmi banana hai...hai ki nahi??
TD: haan babu...karenge....
(This conversation had already attracted 6 more richshaw-pullers. Their body language was saying that they were also interested. So, i din't waste the opportunity and asked them if they were interested...the answer was affirmative).

I was taking pride on myself as I had successfully achieved the target. The very next day I contacted a Post Office agent and asked her to help us. She willingly agreed to lend her support. How we procured the forms and got their accounts opened requires another posting on Indian Bureaucracy but after unrelenting efforts from our side we were able to open some 30 accounts within 10 days.

That feeling of achievement could not last longer and then I realized the essence of the challenge thrown by Prof. Sanyal and it was the sustainabilty of the saving patterns started by us. After 2-3 installments nearly 60% of the investors started defaulting. The reasons I chalked out for this were firstly our own negligence. We got involved in things like GRE, CAT and placements and hence our connection with those poor investors got snapped. Secondly, we ignored the fact that they were already having low levels of income and without creating any source of the same we kind of added extra burden on them. We realized that we had committed a grave mistake. It was now our responsiblity to do something to increase their income level. Having this thing in our mind we fixed-up a meeting with the wives of those richshaw-pullers. We targeted women this time because we learnt that women are more capable to save than males. We convinced the 20-women group to utilize their free time in some kind of kutir udyog to raise their income level. We named it Jagruti Mahila Gramodyog Samiti and started with a business of pickle manufacturing. The result is that, today we have received the first returns on the first lot of pickle sold. Though it is a meagre amount of Rs 560 which we, rather those women have earned but it definitely bears a mark of the bright future of those 20 families.

Posted by TS at 9:47 PM 6 comments  

Thank you

We really wish to thank our friends for their open hearted help in our humble start. Let us brief everyone about the project.

We are planning to buy 1 patal (sal leave plates) 12 inch molding machine and 2 stitching machines to support the moulding machine. Both machines are developed by Premier magneto, Prem bazzar (a Mech dept, kgp alumnus) in collaboration with rural development center, IIT Kharagpur. Typical production rate is around 400 plates per hour. Saal leaves are found in abundant in kgp. Molding machine will cost us around Rs 10500 only and stitching machine Rs. 2850 each.

Our groundwork tells us that there is huge demand for such plates and raw material can be procured at our door step only. Our Jagruti group currently consist of 20 odd women. With this machines installed they each can earn minimum of Rs. 500 per month while working just 6 hours. From there they can inc. their income depending on how much they work.

We will post formal project details soon and progress. Keep in touch via this blog. :)

Posted by Himanshu at 9:39 PM 0 comments