Monday, May 28, 2012

India shodhyatra: Mapping creative techno minds

Thousands of students belonging to arts, commerce, science and technology must be planning an engagement with their dreams in the summer of 2011.

I hope I can persuade some of them to take a week or two out if not months to understand the creative spirit in the rural and urban informal sector as well as among the MSME. Some of the industrial clusters have invited students for summer industrial shodhyatra.

Technical universities in Gujarat, Punjab and Rajasthan have taken lot of interest in joining hands with, a SRISTI initiative to bring students, faculty and micro and small industries as well as informal enterprises closer.Let me share my expectations about what we can accomplish during the shodhyatras.

Shodhyatra is a serious effort to embark upon internal and external journeys. We know the date of beginning and ending of any external journey. But, do we know these dates of the inner journey?

The journey within is no less important. Each traveller or seeker of authentic knowledge has to determine oneself what questions to ask and how deep to go to seek their answers.

The parameters of authenticity in any life journey can't be different, whether for urban or rural areas. It would not be prudent to trivialise such a quest or a journey.

Let us assume that 500 students in groups of 50 each or less want to embark upon a shodhyatra in 10 different clusters. These could be clusters of small scale manufacturers, fabricators, weavers, leather workers, chemical formulators or garment manufacturers.

Depending upon each location, the nature and distribution of clusters will vary. A small group ought to contact the units or entrepreneurs in advance and seek their consent for visiting them in group to learn from them and their workers.

Homework should be done to know national and international benchmarks whether with respect to energy use or waste production or efficiency or innovations in respective sector or sub-sectors.

On the appointed day, students can begin the journey with a humble spirit, deep curiosity and a strong desire to listen and observe.

They can go on bicycles or on foot as they prefer. The idea is not to just go from one unit to another but also observe things on the way. Naturally, the waste disposal in the manner that it is, is bound to attract their attention.

They might collect samples of some of the items to take back to their colleges to do research on what can be done with these materials.

In each unit, students may seek the knowledge about current level of productivity, per unit energy intensity, waste production per lot, any innovation in design of machines, manufacturing process or even layout, the problems being faced, and anything else which entrepreneur wishes to share.

Sometimes, a practice of one unit might appear to be innovative for another unit. With the permission of the provider, whether the interesting practice can be shared with others, students can become honeybees and start doing cross-pollination.

If hundreds of thousands of students every summer go out into the hinterland, industrial clusters and villages, there is no way the mindset which promotes inertia, mediocrity and inefficiency can survive in India. The time to connect has come.

Creativity, collaboration and compassion will follow.