Saturday, 30 April 2016

Assamese innovator brightens hope for differently abled

Assamese innovator brightens hope for differently abled

Guwahati, Apr.30 (ANI): Innovation is all about creativity and passion to do something different. Swapnanil Talukdar, a resident of Assam, has been in the news for developing a wheelchair that can help differently abled people.
Talukdar, a young and passionate innovator from Guwahati, Assam, has developed a machine that can turn the pages of books and newspapers for those who are physically disabled.
The young innovator was recently selected for Innovation Scholars In-residence programme at Rashtrapati Bhawan, New Delhi
This device also provides disabled people with a wheelchair attached with a rotating rubber chain-cum-track grip that would ascend or descend a steep flight of stairs with ease.
Talukdar said, "It was one evening that I was lying on my chair and I was very tired that evening, and it was a random thought that I am feeling very lazy to turn the pages, and at that point if am a handless person, because we normally do not think of the people who are disabled and because it's very difficult for them to leave a normal life."
"So, at that point, I thought maybe they are deprived of the education because they cannot turn the pages with their hands. So, I thought if they are deprived of the education and that means they are not leading a normal life. Without education our normal life is useless, so, why not assist them and design something which will at least help them in getting the education. With this I came up with this idea to develop such prototype," Talukdar said.
The 19-year-old is pursuing electronic engineering in Guwahati. In 2013, he created the page turning machine.
He won a national award from the National Innovation Foundation from late President A P J Abdul Kalam for his incredible work.
His prototype project was recognized by National Innovation Foundation, India.
Swapnanil believes that his machine would revolutionize mobility among the disabled.
Dreaming of becoming an entrepreneur, he is also working on other projects with his young team in Assam.
Swapnanil also likes to do household work. His parents have been always supportive throughout his journey.
Nirmali Talukdar, his mother, said, "We never thought he will go so further and do such great job. Feeling really proud of him. I would like to say to all the parents that they should support their children in whatever good work they do. They should support and encourage their passion for work no matter which field it is be it sports, music or dance."
Such innovations will encourage young minds to contribute to the society in a much more positive way.

Monday, 18 April 2016

How a railway project put truck driver’s son on plane to Japan

How a railway project put truck driver’s son on plane to Japan

How a railway project put truck driver’s son on plane to Japan

For his science project two years ago, Ankur Majumdar used his father’s smartphone to search for photographs of trains. “My project was on treating human waste in trains, but I had never seen a train before,” said the 16-year-old student from Odisha’s Nabarangpur district.

On Sunday morning, Ankur flew to Japan with 29 other students on a youth exchange programme organised by the Japan Science and Technology Agency in association with the Centre’s Department of Science and Technology (DST).

According to officials, that’s a first for Nabarangpur. The district in southern Odisha is arguably India’s poorest and the focus of a year-long assignment, titled District Zero, by The Indian Express. It has some of the most dismal indicators for education, with 57.35 per cent of the population having never attended school.

But as Ankur’s story shows, that could be slowly changing.

Ankur’s project, ‘Utilisation of Human Excrement and Environment Safety in the Railways’, took him to first position at the district and state levels in INSPIRE, a DST competition to attract the best of science talent among students. He eventually stood second from Odisha at the national-level competition held in Delhi last October.

Under INSPIRE, two students are selected from each middle and high school in the country and each gets Rs 5,000 to prepare a science model, after which they compete at the district, state and national levels. Students for the exchange programme are selected from among the INSPIRE toppers.

This year, 248 children in Nabarangpur have qualified for the science project. When Ankur won the award last year, he was a Class X student of the Government High School in Murtuma, a village in Umerkote block. Now, he is a first-year student of the Gurukrupa Junior College in Umerkote.

For his project, Ankur made a “demo model” of a train. “It was the clerk in our school who gave me this idea. He had just come back from a train journey and was talking about how disgusted he was with all that human waste on the tracks. When I told him I had been chosen for the INSPIRE awards, he said I should think of a solution to this problem. I discussed the idea with my science teacher and we came up with our model,” said Ankur.

And they got working right away. While Ankur’s father Deepak Majumdar, a truck driver and a small-time farmer, helped him with the cardboard model — complete with wagons and a red engine — it was his science teacher Shivram Panigrahi who sat with him for long hours as they discussed the project.

”We discussed in school, after school hours, at sir’s home... We finally came up with the concept of train toilets fitted with tanks underneath where human waste would get collected instead of falling on the tracks. At every station, a giant vacuum pump would transfer the waste to an open field nearby where alternate layers of waste would be topped with soil. The anaerobic bacteria in the soil would then decompose the waste. The Railways already has bio-toilets developed by DRDO but these are expensive and my teacher says IIT-Kanpur has said they are not good enough,” said Ankur.

 “My Murtuma school was a rural facility with no good library or other resource material, but we have a few teachers like Panigrahi sir who was with me through this project. He looked up the Internet and came up with numbers and data with which I impressed the judges at the competition,” said Ankur.

There was more he had to do to “impress the judges”. “It was all well until the district and state level competitions. When I was selected for the competition in Delhi, they told me I would have to speak Hindi for the judges to understand what I was saying. So I worked on my Hindi. TV really helped,” said Ankur, who says he is now hooked to ‘Taarak Mehta ka Oolta Chashmah’ on SAB TV and Man vs Wild on Discovery Channel.

Ankur has an elder sister, who is in the second year of plus-2 in junior college, and a younger brother who is studying in Class 7 at the same Murtuma school. His father says he prefers his son to do all the talking, adding that Ankur was the one who “studies the most” among his three children.

Ankur, meanwhile, says his aim is to study “pure science” and that he hopes to do research, “not in Odisha, somewhere outside”.

When contacted, District Collector Rashmita Panda said, “Ankur has made Nabarangur proud and will inspire many others in the district. He has shown that despite studying in a government school with limited means, it is possible to do well.”

Incidentally, the Odisha government and Ministry of Railways agreed last November to jointly develop at least six-seven rail projects in the state, including a 40-km track connecting the Nabarangpur district headquarters to its nearest rail link in Koraput’s Jeypore.

“My first train journey was when I had to travel to Bhubaneswar for the state-level competition,” said Ankur.

“Now my parents are worried about my first flight. Except for a cousin who works in the ITBP, no one in my family has ever been on a plane. I asked him and he said it’s the take-off and landing that’s scary, everything else is fine. But my mother doesn’t understand. She cried a bit when I was leaving then and said, ‘we are letting you go only because yeh tumhare career ka sawaal hain’ (this is a question of your career),” he said.

Friday, 15 April 2016

Meet the 86-year-old who has helped 6 lakh patients get treatment they couldn’t afford

Meet the 86-year-old who has helped 6 lakh patients get treatment they couldn’t afford

Starting with a small donation of Rs 10, this man has collected over Rs 10 crore to help 6 lakh patients who cannot afford to pay for their medical treatment. Read the story of Naginbhai Shah, an 86-year-old man who still works with the dedication of a 20-year-old to bring relief and hope to the lives of thousands in Ahmedabad.

“Everyone lives. But to live while doing something for other people is what matters the most. I get complete satisfaction, loads of blessings and a lot of happiness. This is my meditation,” says 86-year-old Naginbhai Shah about his work.

Naginbhai is the founder of Dardionu Rahat Fund, an organization based in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. He has taken up the responsibility of helping patients who cannot afford medical treatment in hospitals – those who have no money to pay for their medicines, check-ups, surgeries, etc.

The Fund was born in 1964 with a small donation of Rs. 10 and, since then, Naginbhai and his group of volunteers have collected over Rs. 10 crores! They have helped with the treatment of more than 6 lakh patients.


Naginbhai (centre) with patients and volunteers

“My son was about three years old when he fell sick and had to be admitted to the hospital. I was a middle class man back then and was searching for a job. I didn’t have the money required for his treatment,” recalls Naginbhai about the time when he first became motivated to do something for the underprivileged.

He had his asthmatic son admitted to the hospital for treatment and went to an old friend to borrow some money. On returning with a sum of Rs. 25, Naginbhai encountered a woman who had come from a nearby village. She was there with her eight year old son and was weeping when Naginbhai met her.

“I asked her why she was crying. After some hesitation she told me that her child needed an operation and the doctor had informed her that the total expenditure would be Rs. 25. She had come with only Rs. 10 from her village. And now, she was left with just Rs. 6. I don’t know what came over me but without thinking for a second I immediately gave her the Rs. 25 that I had borrowed,” he says.

Naginbhai had to go out and borrow some money for his son once again but he was happy that the child he helped recovered after the operation.

Providing for the needy.

“My son recovered too. And after some time I got a job as well. After that, I started believing that my job and my son’s health were all the result of the blessings of that woman,” he adds.

It was sometime around then that an idea began to take shape within him. “What if I came to the hospital for half an hour each day and helped one or two people with whatever money I could arrange?” he thought. The year was 1964. Naginbhai discussed the idea with some friends. He was amazed when he asked if they would be willing to help with Rs. 10 – they gave him Rs. 51 instead. “I was surprised. I was asking for small amounts and people were giving a lot more,” says Naginbhai.

And that’s how it all started. Naginbhai would regularly ride his bicycle to the hospital near his home, identify the people who needed help and take care of all their medical expenses with the money he had collected from his friends.

Naginbhai giving medicines to patients

Today, after about half a decade, this generous man is still dedicated to his service. He has a team of five volunteers and they go out every evening at 5 pm to Sheth V. S. General Hospital, Jivraj Mehta Hospital, and some other hospitals in Ahmedabad. In the general wards of these hospitals, they move from one bed to another, talking to the patients there. They chat with them to find out where they are from, their professions, how much money they make, etc.

In this manner, they are able to identify those who need their help the most.

A beneficiary

“We ‘adopt’ these people and help them with everything they need – be it an MRI, a CT Scan, some medicines, an operation, or anything else. But we make sure that the patient does not go home untreated.” The small team raises money by speaking to people across the city – friends, acquaintances, family, strangers – anyone who can help them with funds. “Sometimes, when we reach the hospital, we find the doctors, staff and some patients waiting for us. The doctors ask those who cannot afford treatment to wait till we come,” says Naginbhai.

“We know what we do is just a drop in the ocean. We cannot go out and help every poor person who cannot pay his/her medical bills. But we have decided that whoever we help, we will help completely and won’t leave that person’s treatment half way. The money involved could be Rs. 10,000 or Rs. 50,000, or more. But once we tell a person we will help, we don’t back out,” he adds. Naginbhai lives with his son who is working in Ahmedabad. He is extremely frugal with his expenses.

His team works with him for free and there are three trustees who help him take care of the finances of the Fund.

“My family does not support me a lot. But I have stopped expecting anything from them. The people support me. Donors send in money blindly. Last year, I collected Rs. 1.55 crores and spent Rs 1.48 crores on the patients. No money is spent on administration.”

His team also provides patients with fruits, hearing aids, artificial limbs, etc. It is mostly by word of mouth that donors reach Naginbhai. One such donor is Suresh Ruparel. He’s been associated with Naginbhai for the last five years.

“Once I visited a hospital and asked if I could donate money for someone and how I could find a genuine case. The hospital staff told me about Naginbhai. Actually, my mother died in that hospital and I could not reach in time. That’s why I really wanted to help someone there. Naginbhai maintains a very good relationship with all regular donors. I keep aside a portion of my salary for him every month,” he says.

Naginbhai sure has the blessings of the woman he first helped with Rs. 25. And many more now. We wish this 86-year-old a long life and many more years of dedicated service.